Chief executive given face before resigning, says Allen Lee President Hu Jintao signalled the end of Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa's seven years in charge of Hong Kong last night, saying his experience in running the city would enable him to play a 'crucial role' in his new job with the mainland's top political advisory body. Neither leader made any reference to the widely held but still unconfirmed belief that the chief executive is about to step down. Speaking before a closed-door meeting in Zhongnanhai, the leadership compound in Beijing, Mr Hu said Mr Tung had accumulated lots of experience in governing Hong Kong and implementing the 'one country, two systems' formula, adding: 'I believe that you must be able to play a crucial role in the CPPCC.' However, neither Xinhua nor the China News Service made any reference to Mr Tung's leadership experience. Mr Tung, who was embarrassed in December when told by Mr Hu to 'identify inadequacies', smiled broadly and looked relaxed during a brief photo call. Mr Hu also said Mr Tung had overcome the challenges of the Asian financial crisis and effectively handled a series of political and economic problems, helping to maintain the stability and prosperity of Hong Kong. Mr Tung said it was an honour to be appointed to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and he would throw himself into his work as a delegate. Lau Nai-keung, a Hong Kong delegate to the CPPCC, said the central government intended to keep it 'business as usual' before making a formal announcement on Mr Tung's political future. Allen Lee Peng-fei, a Hong Kong deputy to the National People's Congress, which opened yesterday, said Mr Hu's commendation of the chief executive amounted to a summary of Mr Tung's rule. 'I am adamant that the dust has settled and Mr Tung will certainly quit. The president just gave some face to Mr Tung before the chief executive steps down,' Mr Lee said. Ma Ngok, a political scientist at the University of Science and Technology, said Mr Hu's remarks were a strong hint Mr Tung was about to go. 'It gives people the feeling that the central government was making a conclusion on Tung's seven years of office. In the forward-looking part of his speech, he did not mention support for Tung's administration. 'Instead, he asked the people to maintain unity. This gives people the feeling that the announcement of Tung's resignation is imminent.' The chief executive's wife, Betty Tung Chiu Hung-ping, was also at Zhongnanhai. It is understood that Mr and Mrs Tung later had dinner with the president. Mr Tung is due to meet Premier Wen Jiabao this morning and to return to Hong Kong this afternoon. Sources said the chief executive is expected to fly back to Beijing to attend the CPPCC's closing ceremony next Saturday and be elected a vice-chairman of the body. It is widely believed Mr Tung will announce his resignation, probably for medical reasons, before he is elected a vice-chairman. Some Hong Kong delegates to the CPPCC said an announcement on Mr Tung's fate was likely to be made between tomorrow and Saturday. Delivering the Government Work Report yesterday, Mr Wen said the central government would unswervingly implement the 'one country, two systems' concept and act according to the Basic Law.