Wrangling, some of it sourced to Beijing, dashes Margaret Chan's chances of replacing the man who led the Sars fight Last-minute political manoeuvring - some of it sourced to Beijing - has dashed the chances of Hong Kong's director of health replacing the WHO official who headed the global battle against Sars. Instead of replacing David Heymann as assistant director-general of the World Health Organisation, Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun will be the director for the protection of the human environment, one of nine new directors heading a department, and one rank lower than an assistant director-general. She will take up the WHO post next month after retiring from the civil service. Among those now above her will be a new Beijing official directly advising the new director-general Lee Jong-wook, and an African official, with WHO sources saying the regional mix was a factor and China was keen for greater representation. 'The post and the department are not new. The earlier plan was to make Dr Chan one of the assistant directors of the new administration but that did not come off,' one source said. Others said Dr Chan had been expected to replace Dr Heymann, who emerged as the proactive face of an organisation previously seen as a passive observer of outbreaks. Dr Heymann becomes the representative of the WHO director-general in polio eradication. Dr Heymann's replacement as head of the WHO's communicable diseases directorate is a Ghanaian, Anarfi Asamoa-Baah, who was previously head of its health technology and pharmaceuticals section. Another newcomer is Liu Peilong, previously director-general of the department of international co-operation of China's Ministry of Health. He takes up the post of assistant director-general and senior adviser to the new WHO director-general. If Dr Chan had become assistant director-general for communicable diseases, she might have been put in a position of recommending a travel advisory against Hong Kong in case of a re-emergence of Sars. The decision to name Dr Chan as a departmental head is understood to have been made in the past two weeks, just before the announcement was made in Hong Kong. But Dr Chan will still wield considerable power as 41 department directors are responsible for their own budgets and personnel hirings, unlike in previous WHO administrations, insiders said. Iain Simpson, spokesman for the director-general's office, said from WHO headquarters in Geneva: 'Dr Liu worked a great deal with international organisations, such as the World Bank, the WHO and others. 'He is very experienced in dealing with international organisations, so he is not just somebody who has only worked in Beijing. 'Obviously, there has to be a certain element of regional mix, but each of them is appointed on their individual merit and not appointed by some goal to achieve a political balance.' He said Dr Liu was not the first mainland Chinese official to hold a WHO cabinet post. He is one of two senior aides to Dr Lee, advising on a wide range of policies and issues. The other is Denis Aitken from Britain, who is director of the director-general's office. Mr Simpson said: 'Dr Margaret Chan is a very accomplished person with a very high profile in the management of Sars. 'Dr Lee wanted to bring her in at a senior level and the position that they decided was the one that should fit her, partly because of her experience in tackling Sars and also for her experience with the issue of environmental health.' Dr Chan would not comment when asked about the behind-the-scenes discussions before she was named to the WHO post.