WORLD number one Deng Yaping has shunned the Palmolive Optima Asian Women All Stars circuit but Hong Kong officials do not think it will seriously affect the three-tournament series which kicks off in the territory next Friday. China still hold a strong hand in the two-day competition at the Southorn Stadium by entering Qiao Hong and Liu Wei - the world numbers two and three respectively. The Hong Kong leg also features local aces Chai Po-wa and Chan Tan-lui; Taiwan's Chinese immigrants Chen Jing, Xu Jing and Tang Feiming; and Japan's Fumiyo Kaizu. 'The Chinese authorities told us earlier in the week Deng Yaping is not feeling well and will not be taking part in the series,' said Tony Yue Kwok-leung, chairman of the Hong Kong Table Tennis Association. 'It's a bit unfortunate because she has a big following here but in taking a more positive view, it means that our own players Chai Po-wa and Chan Tan-lui will have a better chance of winning. 'Anyway, Deng Yaping has played here many times and her pull-out gave us an opportunity to bring another new face to Hong Kong like Tang Feiming and Kaizu.' Favourite for the event will undoubtedly be second-ranked Qiao, the overall series champion and winner of the Hong Kong stop in the past two years. But Taiwan's Chen, seventh in the world, is the in-form player at the moment. She beat Japan's Asian Games heroine Chire Koyama on the way to the Swedish Open title last week. Hong Kong debutants Tang and Kaizu should receive their fair share of attention. Tang is a former Chinese international who has moved quickly up the world ranking to her present 23rd position while Kaizu, being the only non-Chinese in the field, will be the prime target of all the other contestants. HKTTA chairman Yue, however, will be keeping his fingers crossed for a local victory and he says he is hopeful that either Chai or Chan could at least make it into the finals. Said Yue: 'It will be splendid if we can maintain a Hong Kong interest right up to the very last ball. 'They are both training in Beijing at the moment and I'm sure they'll be fully prepared and will give good accounts of themselves in the series.'