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Leung Chun-ying

Handshakes speak volumes as Xi Jinping and top state leaders welcome CY Leung to new role

Chinese president’s words difficult to make out during minute-long chat with chief executive, but message of support was unmistakeable

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 March, 2017, 4:42pm
UPDATED : Monday, 13 March, 2017, 6:39pm

Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying was showered with support by state leaders, including a handshake and minute-long chat with President Xi Jinping, as he was elected a vice-chairman of Beijing’s top political advisory body on Monday.

Leung also shook hands with the remaining six of Xi’s Politburo Standing Committee members.

After receiving a landslide vote backing a motion to appoint Leung as vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the Hong Kong chief executive took to the stage and took a seat at the far end of the front row as a round of applause rang out in the Great Hall of the People.

Tight-lipped and looking tense, Leung bowed to the audience, then turned and bowed to the state leaders and the standing committee of the CPPCC.

Plenum staff approached him immediately after CPPCC chairman Yu Zhengsheng, a Politburo Standing Committee member, announced the closing of the plenum. Leung was then led to the main aisle to await Xi on his way out.

The president strode up to Leung and shook his hand, doing most of the talking in a conversation that lasted for more than a minute.

Watch: Xi Jinping and Leung Chun-ying shake hands

It is unclear what Xi said to Leung. A sign language expert in Hong Kong who reads lips told the Post he believed Xi said something like “But, you should ...” and “We will certainly support you, rest assured”. But the expert said Xi’s lips were hard to read as he did not enunciate clearly.

The rest of the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee also shook hands with Leung. Second in line was Premier Li Keqiang, who spoke with the Hong Kong leader for about 20 seconds.

More respect, but no immunity: what CY Leung can expect from new job on China’s top advisory body

Leung’s predecessor, Tung Chee-hwa, had also been greeted by then president Hu Jintao’s full Politburo Standing Committee when he was appointed to the same position in 2005.

Last year, Chongqing party boss Sun Zhengcai caught Xi for a handshake on the rostrum, but Xi did not stop to chat.

Former chief executive Tung was the first CPPCC vice-chairman to congratulate Leung. After a strong handshake, Tung patted Leung’s arm.

The pair had a brief exchange of words before Tung’s departure as other CPPCC vice-chairmen waited to shake Leung’s hand.

Leung himself was one of the last to leave the rostrum, after spending more than four minutes exchanging greetings with other VIPs.