Once seen as a pro-Britain figure in the colonial era, Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai has now joined Communist China's most powerful body, 25 years after her political life began. In 1983, Mrs Fan was appointed as a legislative councillor, becoming an executive councillor in 1989. But her opposition to former governor Chris Patten's political reform proposal saw him remove her from the Executive Council in 1992. She then resigned as a lawmaker but returned to the legislature five years later. In 1995, upon the invitation of Beijing, she joined the Preparatory Committee for the territory's handover. She became the president of the controversial provisional Legislative Council in 1997, and has held the presidency of the new Legislative Council since its establishment the following year. She joined China's power structure in 1998, when she was elected as a local deputy to the National People's Congress. In 2004, the Legco president took part in direct elections, contesting a Hong Kong Island seat when the original Election Committee-elected seats were eliminated. She has enjoyed high popularity ratings among legislators in opinion polls. Mrs Fan was hotly tipped as a Standing Committee candidate as Tsang Hin-chi said he would retire from the NPC when the new term started this year. The emergence of another possible candidate, Basic Law Committee vice-chairwoman Elsie Leung Oi-sie, added uncertainty to Mrs Fan's future, but her path was cleared when Ms Leung decided not to run. In January's poll of 1,231 election panel members, Mrs Fan was re-elected as an NPC deputy for a third term with the highest number of votes of all the Hong Kong candidates. She has announced she will not seek re-election to Legco, and yesterday said she would concentrate on her new post when the legislative session ends in July. Asked after yesterday's election whether she thought joining the NPC Standing Committee was the peak of her political career, the 62-year-old said: 'I dare not say so. I don't have ambitions as such.'