HK doctors back Margaret Chan for WHO top position

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 July, 2006, 12:00am

Monitoring of diseases on the mainland may be easier for the World Health Organisation (WHO) if its top post is held by a person with a strong Chinese background, say Hong Kong doctors.

They were commenting after Beijing yesterday said it would recommend Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun, a former Hong Kong director of health, to run for director-general of the WHO. Dr Chan is the WHO's assistant director-general for communicable diseases.

Choi Kin, president of the Hong Kong Medical Association, said Beijing would be more willing to co-operate with the WHO if the organisation was headed by Dr Chan.

'Beijing always feels insecure about opening up for inspections by foreigners. But it may be more willing to do so if the WHO is headed by someone whom it can trust' Dr Choi said.

'It would benefit Hong Kong if Beijing can better co-operate with the WHO in disease control and prevention, as Hong Kong is at risk of infectious diseases spread from mainland cities considering its close geographic proximity and busy traffic.'

He said criticism by the Legislative Council of Dr Chan's performance in handling the Sars outbreak would not harm her chances of running for the post.

Microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung, of the University of Hong Kong, said Dr Chan would help to cope not only with infectious diseases on the mainland, but also in Southeast Asia.

'Dr Chan has a strong Chinese background, but also received medical training in Canada. Her global exposure working in the WHO over the past few years, together with her experience in handling different outbreaks of infectious diseases in Hong Kong, make her a suitable person to take up the post as the director-general,' Professor Yuen said.

Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food York Chow Yat-ngok said it was an honour for Hong Kong to have Dr Chan nominated as a candidate for the post.

Zhang Wei , assistant professor in the department of health economics and management at Peking University, was optimistic about Dr Chan's nomination.

'She is not from the mainland and she is an outsider of the mainland government, and I don't think she will be getting too close with the mainland,' he said.



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