Tung takes his place behind the leaders
There may be uncertainties about Tung Chee-hwa's political future in Hong Kong, but he is already rubbing shoulders with the movers and shakers of China's top advisory body.
Making his return to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) after standing down from the body before becoming chief executive in 1997, Mr Tung was given a prominent seat on stage at the opening of the CPPCC's annual meeting in Beijing yesterday.
It is widely expected he will be named a vice-chairman of the body ahead of his possible departure as Hong Kong's leader.
Sitting in the third row, Mr Tung was one row behind President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao , and two rows behind the chairman and vice-chairmen of the CPPCC in the Great Hall of the People.
On his left was Xiao Yang , president of the Supreme People's Court, and on his right Wang Yang , vice-secretary general of the State Council General Office.
Hua Jianmin , secretary-general of the State Council General Office, was keen to make friends with the smiling chief executive and shook his hands at the end of the session.
Curious to learn all he could about state affairs, perhaps in anticipation of his new role, Mr Tung intently read reports delivered at the session.
Except for an occasional pause to sip tea or wipe his glasses for a closer inspection of the papers, Mr Tung seldom let his concentration slip during lengthy speeches by officials such as CPPCC chairman Jia Qinglin .
Despite being the subject of intense media speculation in Hong Kong, Mr Tung did not make any other public appearances yesterday.