The former Hong Kong health chief who is a candidate to head the World Health Organisation believes backing from the city and central governments has given her an advantage over rivals. Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun's remarks came as Beijing reiterated its confidence in her, saying the government would exhaust every means to get her elected as the UN health agency's director-general. Speaking in Beijing yesterday, where she met senior central government officials, Dr Chan, who has taken leave from her post as the WHO's assistant director-general for communicable diseases while she seeks the top post, said it was still too early to assess her chances. The votes of 34 WHO members, meeting in November, will decide who gets the job. Asked if she felt any pressure at the prospect of being the first Chinese citizen to hold the post, she said: 'There are risks in any election, but China has a big advantage. The central government and the [Hong Kong] SAR government can extend our advantage.' Dr Chan, who appeared to be in a good mood, met Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Cui Tiankai , Zhang Xiaoming , deputy director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, and Ministry of Health officials. She will meet Vice-Premier Wu Yi today and arrives in Hong Kong tomorrow. Mr Cui welcomed Dr Chan's visit and said the central government would put its weight behind her bid to lead the WHO, Xinhua reported. 'Mr Cui said the central government has placed a high degree of importance on this contest and will make every effort to conduct election work,' Xinhua reported. Dr Chan thanked the central government for its support. 'I'm very happy to come to Beijing to discuss with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other departments preparations for the election. We are still discussing the details.' Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen will meet Dr Chan on Monday. Government sources said Hong Kong would also do its best to lobby for Dr Chan. Among other measures, the administration would contact foreign consulates and mobilise the government's representatives overseas to lobby foreign governments. Despite having the backing of Beijing and Hong Kong, Dr Chan is facing stiff competition from Shigeru Omi of Japan, Mexico's Julio Frank, Finland's Peka Pushka and Kazem Behbehani of Kuwait. Dr Chan was criticised by the Legislative Council for the failure of Hong Kong authorities to act more quickly in the early stages of the Sars outbreak in 2003. Still, the international community may see her as a bridge to the mainland, which lacks transparency in its handling of health emergencies. The WHO has assumed an increasingly high-profile role in the global fight against infectious diseases in the wake of the Sars and bird flu outbreaks.