Donald Tsang

Beijing to bankroll bid for WHO post

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 31 July, 2006, 12:00am

The central government will fund a globetrotting election campaign by Hong Kong's former health chief in her bid for the top job at the World Health Organisation.

Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun said yesterday her confidence in securing the post of WHO director-general had been boosted by Beijing's promise of full economic and diplomatic support.

Dr Chan is expected to visit at least two dozen countries during her campaign, for which she has taken leave from her post as WHO assistant director-general for communicable diseases.

'During my discussion with the central government in the last few days I was reassured of the necessary support for this election campaign, and that has helped enhance my level of comfort and confidence,' she said at Chek Lap Kok on her arrival from Beijing.

As well as providing funds for her travelling expenses, Dr Chan said, the central government had also promised her any form of assistance needed during her campaign trips.

'Help offered by Chinese embassies stationed in other countries is vital for my campaign overseas,' she said.

Vice-Minister of Health Huang Jiefu said Dr Chan's candidacy was an honour for China and the government had always offered its support to her.

'It is a very important event for the country and Hong Kong,' he said yesterday at a function in Hong Kong.

'How can our country send out a candidate to take part in the election if our country is not strong and does not enjoy a high international status? This is one of the biggest UN agencies we are talking about here,' he said, adding it was the first time a Chinese candidate had stood for the post.

Dr Chan met Vice-Premier Wu Yi and officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office and the Ministry of Health during her stay in Beijing to discuss her campaign.

She will meet Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food York Chow Yat-ngok today at Government House.

Meetings with Health Department officials will also be arranged.

'I will ... listen to their views on what are the important issues in this region,' Dr Chan said. 'This is also part of my consultation and discussion with other member states of the WHO.'

Dr Chan said it was difficult to assess her chances of securing the post as the list of candidates would not be known until applications closed on September 5.

The election for the new head of the UN health body - succeeding South Korea's Lee Jong-wook, who died in May - will be held in November.