Party leader Xi Jinping gave his backing to embattled Leung Chun-ying yesterday as the chief executive made his first duty visit to Beijing.
Accompanied by all the major present and future officials in charge of Hong Kong affairs, Xi told Leung his administration was "progressive, striving, pragmatic and promising".
He said: "You have a heavy workload and it is exhausting. The central government affirm your work and will continue to firmly support [the SAR government] to rule in accordance with the law.
"I can tell you all here that the central government's ruling policy of Hong Kong and Macau has remained unchanged," he said, referring to concerns over whether the recent party leadership reshuffle might affect the policy.
"The key is to comprehensively and accurately understand and implement the one country, two systems as well as respect and safeguard the Basic Law."
The meeting on Leung's first day in Beijing came amid mounting calls in Hong Kong for him to step down, with pan-democratic lawmakers agreeing to jointly table an impeachment motion.
It also offered clues to the new line-up of mainland leaders who will sit in a leading group on Hong Kong and Macau affairs.
Zhang Dejiang , newly promoted to the Politburo's Standing Committee, sat closest to Xi. Li Yuanchao , a member of the Politburo and a top candidate to become vice-president in March, was also present, as was Liao Hui , who has held sway over the city's affairs for more than a decade.
Liao's former secretary Zhang Xiaoming , who has just been made head of the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong, also attended the meeting, together with the State Councillor and Politburo member Liu Yandong .
Xi's message to Leung seems to be a step forward compared with what President Hu Jintao told chief executive Tung Chee-hwa in 2004. Hu at the time said Hong Kong needed to "accurately understand" the "one country, two systems" formula.
Leung thanked the central government for its support, adding that the nation's development blueprint outlined at the 18th party congress last month was very encouraging.
Zhang is expected to be the new leader of the leading group on Hong Kong and Macau affairs in March.
Since 2007 it has been chaired by Xi, who takes over as president in March. In introducing Zhang to Leung, Xi stressed Zhang was "very familiar with Hong Kong affairs". The day-to-day operation of the group is likely to be handled by Li.
After the meeting, Leung said the controversy over his illegal structures was not mentioned.