Beijing never pressured me in office, former WHO chief Margaret Chan says
She says she made decision not to invite Taiwan to World Health Assembly last year because it had violated the ‘one China’ principle, recognised by the UN
The first Chinese director general for the World Health Organisation has said that Beijing had never interfered with her job, including the decision last year not to invite Taiwan into the group’s governing forum, the World Health Assembly (WHA).
In a rare and first interview after stepping down from the job last month, Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun also said she would spend more time with her family and not take up any roles in the city’s government for this year.
Formerly also the Hong Kong director of health, Chan was catapulted to the top gobal health post with China’s strong diplomatic support, after the sudden death of her South Korean predecessor Lee Jong-wook in 2006.
“China has never interfered with my administration or any of my office decisions,” she said in a seminar on international law on Friday morning.
In a subsequent media interview, she added that she never faced pressure from Beijing over the saga of Taiwan’s non-invite to the annual WHA as an observer last year.
“I communicated with the Beijing government and gained approval to invite Taiwan as a non-voting observer only after it recognises the ‘one China’ policy,” Chan claimed.
From 1997 to 2008, Taiwan’s application for observer status in the WHA was rejected every year. Since 2009, Taiwan has been allowed attendance under the name “Chinese Taipei”.
Chan said she did not invite Taiwan last year as it had violated the political basis of its attendance. She added that the ‘one China’ principle was recognised by the United Nations.
Chan further said that Hong Kong could achieve much more under “one country two systems”, “more than could be done under British rule”.
On the future of Hong Kong, Chan, once rumoured to be a “dark horse” in the race for the city’s leadership, described new chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor as “capable and committed”.
They had worked together in the Department of Health.
Responding to a question about whether she will take up advisory roles in government, Chan, who turns 70 this year, said her priority would be to spend time with family; she has some family members in Hong Kong and others in Canada.
Chan was harshly criticised over her handling of the 2003 Sars crisis. During her term in WHO, she also received criticism for slow action during the Ebola epidemic. But she was lauded for her commitment to tobacco control and for her work against antimicrobial resistance.