In previous blogs I have discussed the conflict between Margaret Chan, Director General of the WHO, and Amnesty International on the state of public health in North Korea.
In response to reporters questions about starvation in North Korea, Margaret Chan responded:
…one thing I recognized is that walking is quite well observed in that country, and I suggest that is why I didn’t see many obese people.
This bizarre statement invites the obvious question: What is Margaret Chan’s motive for providing aid and comfort to the North Korean government?
Many reporters and casual observers assume that Margaret Chan is a disinterested physician/scientist who was named Director-General of the most important public health organisation as a result of her superior qualifications.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
In 2003, Margaret Chan was head of the Department of Health in Hong Kong during the SARS outbreak. During this disaster, she was accused of deferring so much to the sensitivities of the Chinese government that she misled the public in Hong Kong regarding the dangers of the virus. Many family members of victims of SARS blamed her personally for the loss of their loved ones. She was officially censured by the Legislative Council of Hong Kong (Legco). Margaret Chan left Hong Kong in disgrace to join the WHO, but the search for justice from outraged citizens of Hong Kong followed her there.
From The Standard, July 10, 2004:
Tim Pang, of the Society for Community Organisation, a group representing the interests of Sars victims seeking compensation, said a letter will be sent to the WHO next week asking the body to dismiss Chan.
“According to the Legco report, Chan was guilty of dereliction of duty before and during the early stage of the Sars outbreak,” he said. “[Her inaction] had a serious impact on public health and global health, which should disqualify her from working for the WHO.”
Pang said his group will consider asking the government to cancel Chan’s pension as that is the only form of punishment available.
In the report, Chan was criticised for ignoring early signs of an outbreak in Guangdong in February last year.
Officials at the WHO ignored the criticisms of Margaret Chan. In 2005, she became the “pandemic flu” czar. Those of us interested in pandemic preparedness were shocked on many occasions by her poor performance and obvious bias in favor of the Chinese government despite clear evidence that they were hiding H5N1 cases and withholding critical data. Once again, she appeared to put deference to the Chinese government above saving lives.
On May 22, 2006, Lee Jong-wook, then Director-General of the WHO, died suddenly. His death led to a fierce competition to determine who would be the next Director-General. Although members of the Security Council typically refrain from proposing candidates, the government of China broke tradition and strongly supported Margaret Chan’s candidacy.
The government of China used every resource at its disposal to ensure that Margaret Chan would become the next Director-General of the WHO.
From The Standard, November 4, 2006:
Beijing Friday threw in another heavyweight to support Hong Kong’s former director of health Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun in what has become a high profile race for the top post in the World Health Organization.
“We fully support her, we have set up a campaign team. We hope she will succeed,” vice premier Wu Yi said Friday before attending the two-day China-Africa summit in Beijing.
Despite her numerous past failures and the presence of many much more qualified candidates, Margaret Chan was chosen Director-General of the WHO.
From The Standard, November 9, 2006
Former Hong Kong director of health Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun, with the powerful backing of China, was Wednesday nominated to head the World Health Organization.
China also hosted an unprecedented two-day summit with 48 African nations in Beijing. China has canceled debts amounting to US$1.3 billion (HK$10.1 billion) incurred by 31 heavily indebted countries in Africa, and has given zero-tariff treatment to 190 categories of import commodities from 29 African countries.
China’s ambassador to the UN agency in Geneva, Sha Zukang, earlier denied allegations the selection process had been influenced by “vote buying.”
As many of the blogs at both this site and my archival blog demonstrate, I found many examples of her continued subservience to the Chinese government throughout her tenure at the WHO. I would therefore submit that Margaret Chan’s strong support of the North Korean government’s “health” policies stems from the same motivation that has guided her throughout her career, obedience to her Masters in Beijing in exchange for their support of her career objectives.
In my next blog, I will discuss the motivations of the Chinese government and the other enablers of Margaret Chan’s career.