Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun has told of his surprise at getting HK$3 million from tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying that later grew into a string of donations totalling HK$20 million, some of which was used to fund the underground church on the mainland. 'That's a lot. It was surprising,' the top Vatican adviser and former head of the Hong Kong Catholic diocese, said of the initial 2005 windfall. Zen, an outspoken democracy campaigner and critic of Beijing, broke his silence at a press conference in the face of a flurry of media reports about the donations. He said Lai never directed him as to how to spend the money, and the donations were given to him personally and were not related to the church. After his initial surprise, Zen said he became more matter-of-fact about the money. 'A few millions is a large amount. But think about it. It [Hong Kong] is not a diocese of a backwater town. Very often we need to spend money and indeed the diocese does not have a lot of money ... for a cardinal or a bishop, it is not a huge amount,' he said. 'Maybe the first time I might say thank you. But afterwards whatever [a donor] gave, I would take it.' Supporting charities and followers in Hong Kong and the mainland, as well as funding bishops of less privileged areas, were among other ways in which he spent the money, he said. Lai has not commented in detail on his donations to various political groups - shown in online documents leaked to the media earlier this week to have totalled HK$60 million since 2005. A spokesman said on Tuesday that they were 'entirely legal'. The media tycoon could not be reached for comment yesterday. Zen, the biggest recipient - shown in the documents, leaked on internet sharing engine Foxy, to have received at least HK$3 million a year since 2005 - said some of the money went on scholarships to 160 mainland students studying in Rome. They also received pocket money of Euro20 (HK$215) to Euro50 during festivals. He said less than HK$1 million of the HK$20 million was left. 'It had nothing to do with politics. I hope my life will be open and transparent,' Zen said. Some money had been given to bishops in disaster- stricken areas, he said, adding that a wealthy city like Hong Kong should do something for the world. Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said through his secretary that he had no comment. The Vatican and Beijing do not have formal diplomatic relations, with the biggest impediment to ties being ordination of bishops on the mainland. Zen said he also used the money to fund his trips to Rome and other parts of the world. He had not used any for his own enjoyment. Meanwhile, Democratic Party legislator Fred Li Wah-ming called for a law to govern the income of political parties following Lai's donations to pan-democrat groups. Liberal Party chairwoman Miriam Lau Kin-yee said any law should be carefully designed to avoid interfering with a party's daily operations. Tam Yiu-chung, chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said most donors were reluctant to disclose their identities.