Move sparks concern over bourse independence The government has used its shareholding in Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing to push its allies on to the company's board, raising fears it has too much influence on the stock market operator. Using voting rights granted by its investment in the exchange last year, the government yesterday threw its weight behind favoured candidates Bill Kwok Chi-piu and Vincent Lee Kwan-ho and rejected two candidates considered less friendly. A government source confirmed that it had exercised its 63 million votes in the board election to 'support the candidates it believed could help develop the market'. HKEx director and market activist David Webb said the government had voted for pro-government veteran brokers Mr Kwok and Mr Lee while rejecting Bob Bunker, who was nominated by Mr Webb, and former broker Gilbert Chu Kwok-tsu. Mr Webb said the government now had too much influence on exchange affairs. 'This is unfair to minority shareholders as the government already appoints more than half of the board.' Mr Webb, whose term ends in April next year, may consider not standing for re-election, if he cannot push ahead with reform of the exchange. HKEx has issued shares totalling 1.073 billion but only about 30 per cent of those voted yesterday. HKEx chairman Ronald Arculli said: 'I believe all the HKEx directors are acting on the benefit of the shareholders and the public. There is no pro-government party nor opposition party in the exchange board.' It is the first time the government has voted in an exchange election after it declared it was its largest single shareholder with a stake of 5.88 per cent. With 63.09 million shares, the government represents almost 20 per cent of all votes. Mr Kwok's win was not totally reliant on government support because of the wide margin of his victory. The 55-year-old managing director of brokerage Wocom Holdings and a director of the Hong Kong Securities Institute, won with a net yes vote of 296.55 million. Nor was the government responsible for Mr Chu's loss, who repeated his experience two years ago, by having 214.1 million net negative votes against him. But the government votes did influence Mr Lee's and Mr Bunker's chances. Mr Lee won with a margin of 35.69 million net votes - with 180.88 million 'yes' votes and 145.18 million 'no'. Mr Bunker lost with a negative net vote of 25.15 million - 146.94 million voted 'yes' and 172.09 million voted 'no'. Mr Bunker was disappointed by the result but vowed to continue his work on the listing committee. Separately, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah yesterday re-appointed Mr Arculli, Laura Cha Shih May-lung and Moses Cheng Mo-chi as HKEx directors for another two years. The new board will meet today and a regulatory source said Mr Arculli would be re-elected chairman.