I will be fair to all, vows Margaret Chan

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 August, 2006, 12:00am

Hong Kong's former director of health yesterday pledged to be a fair and righteous international civil servant who would put her Chinese nationality behind her if elected to lead the World Health Organisation.

Speaking as she rounded off a three-day trip and left for Geneva, Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun said: 'I will strictly follow the WHO's code of the conduct. I will be open, fair and transparent. I will not favour China.

'If I am not dealing with issues fairly, I will face criticism from the WHO's other member states.'

Late last month, the central government announced its decision to nominate Dr Chan for the top job at the UN agency. It will fund a globetrotting election campaign by Dr Chan in her bid for the post.

Dr Chan yesterday said the mainland was doing 'a pretty good job' on monitoring and reporting infectious diseases although there was room for improvement.

'China is a big country and a large part is rural. Many farmers simply don't know they have infectious diseases.'

After being director of health for nine years from 1994, Dr Chan left Hong Kong to work for the WHO after the Sars outbreak in 2003. She is the health agency's assistant director-general for communicable diseases, and is on leave to bid for the director-general's job. An election will be held in November to find a successor for South Korean Lee Jong-wook, who died in May.

But Dr Chan's role during the Sars outbreak, for which she has been criticised, continues to haunt her. Sit Pui-yu, who says his mother contracted Sars after being admitted to Tuen Mun Hospital protested outside the Legislative Council building, demanding a public apology from Dr Chan. 'She is bureaucratic and reacted slowly. I doubt her ability to lead the WHO,' Mr Sit said.

Dr Chan refused to apologise when asked if she would answer the demand. 'I have learned from Sars and I have been using what I have learned to serve the world. Sars is the wake-up call for the importance of having a robust monitoring and reporting system in place.'

Dr Chan will set up an office in Geneva, probably using Hong Kong's economic and trade office there, to work on her election bid.