Leung Chun-ying's visit to Beijing is being watched particularly closely as it brings him face to face with members of the central government body responsible for plotting strategies and making key decisions about Hong Kong.
Set up in the wake of the 2003 mass protests against Hong Kong's proposed national security laws, the Communist Party's leading group on Hong Kong and Macau affairs is headed by president-to-be Xi Jinping. State Councillor Liu Yandong is deputy head.
When Xi becomes president in March, Vice-Premier Zhang Dejiang is poised to take charge of the group, while Li Yuanchao , a Politburo member tipped to be promoted to vice-president, will join Liu as deputy heads. Both attended Xi's meeting with Leung yesterday.
The group now includes representatives of about 30 ministries, offices and institutions under the State Council and the party, including the ministries of commerce and health, the National Development and Reform Commission, the People's Bank of China, the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, and the Communist Party's Propaganda Department.
Among other decisions, the group is thought to have been responsible for throwing Beijing's weight behind Leung's rival Henry Tang Ying-yen in the early stages of the chief executive race, before Tang's campaign was derailed by a series of scandals.
Xi, in his capacity as head of the group, is also believed to have decided Beijing's stance on the city's electoral reforms in 2010.
Zhang, the former party secretary of Guangdong, who was also tipped to become the next chairman of the National People's Congress, is the only one of the seven members of the Politburo's new Standing Committee to have come face to face with Hong Kong's ever-critical lawmakers. In 2005, he received all 60 legislators at his provincial guest house.
Hong Kong-based political commentator Johnny Lau Yui-siu said no matter who takes charge of Hong Kong and Macau affairs, the city will be "in a tighter Beijing grip". Other observers expect Beijing's approach to Hong Kong to remain stable.