Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun, the Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), has said she will return to Hong Kong after her term ends in June next year, and has expressed her wish to retire.

She was attending an event in Shanghai and was interviewed by broadcasters RTHK and Commercial Radio. She first joined the international health body headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland as the Director of the Department for Protection of the Human Environment in 2003. She was then elected as Director-General in 2006.

“After all, I am a Hongkonger, I wish to return and live in Hong Kong after my term ends. I need rest, the best thing is to retire, because when I complete my term I will be 70 years old. I hope to have the opportunity to spend time with family – I have no plans to work,” she told RTHK.

Margaret Chan
Margaret Chan. File Photo: Flickr/U.S. Mission Geneva.

Chan was the Director of Health in Hong Kong before leaving for the WHO. Her performance during the SARS outbreak in 2003 attracted criticism from victims, their relatives, and the Legislative Council.

During the avian flu outbreak in Hong Kong in 1997, she famously said “I eat chicken everyday” in an attempt to calm public fear.

But she told the broadcaster that she would not comment on political situation in Hong Kong: “Because I have been gone for ten-odd years and rarely hear about Hong Kong news. I only know Hong Kong has changed a lot.”

She said she missed Hong Kong’s food, such as her childhood favourite wooton noodles, healthy vegetables, and Cantonese “yum cha” restaurants.

“It was difficult to enjoy such a life in Geneva in the past ten-or-so years,” she said.

World Health Organisation
World Health Organisation headquarters in Geneva. Photo: WHO.

She said diseases were easy to spread globally since the movement of people and stocks was frequent, but Hong Kong has done well in handling the spread of the Zika virus and the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus.

“In disease prevention, the Hong Kong Department of Health has been cooperating with the Hospital Authority doing solid work,” she said.

Zika stand down 

Meanwhile, the government removed the Amber Outbound Travel Alert for Singapore on Tuesday as the WHO has indicated that “Zika virus and associated consequences remain a significant enduring public health challenge requiring intense action but no longer represent a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.”

The government reassessed the situation in Singapore, noticing a significant drop in Zika virus infection cases, and decided to remove the alert for Singapore.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.