Singapore’s Shangri-La Hotel prepares to host historic meeting between mainland China’s ‘Mr Xi’ and Taiwan’s ‘Mr Ma’
Singapore’s Shangri-La Hotel is busy preparing to host Saturday afternoon’s historic meeting between President Xi Jinping and his Taiwan counterpart Ma Ying-jeou.
By noon on Friday, several security gates had been installed in front of the ballroom area in the Tower Wing, which will be blocked off from 2am on Saturday.
The Shangri-La is part of the Kerry Group, the controlling shareholder of SCMP Group, publisher of the South China Morning Post.
The ballrooms are being cleaned and re-decorated specially for the event, which will be closely watched not only on both sides of the Taiwan Straits, but also by the United States, Japan, and many other countries around the region.
The huge number of journalists converging on the hotel indicates that a major event is going to take place.
Cameramen from various new organisations have already started to set up their equipment – all vying to claim the best vantage point.
Numerous journalists from the mainland and Taiwan have been assembling in the hotel lobby, busy exchanging business cards, with the distinctive tones of Putonghua filling the place.
“I haven’t heard anything from the hotel, but I guessed there must be something big going on, but didn’t know what it was going to be,” he said.
The hotel did issue a notice to guests on Wednesday, which said: “We would like to inform you that just yesterday the hotel was chosen to host a very high level diplomatic delegation.
“We expect tight levels of security in and around the hotel from the late on Friday evening until the early evening on Saturday.
“Alternative arrangements are being made to minimise any inconvenience and our staff and management will be readily available to offer assistance.”
During Xi’s meeting with Ma most parts of the hotel will function as normal and guests will only need to go through security checks while entering or leaving the building.
Ma will give an early morning speech at Taipei Songshan airport before departing to Singapore, where is due to arrive at 10.30am on Saturday; Xi started his state visit to Singapore on Friday.
Their meeting will start at 3pm, which will see the two leaders address one another simply as “Mister” before they both make opening remarks.
From 3.10pm they will hold a closed-door meeting. At 4.15pm Zhang Zhijun, head of the mainland's Taiwan affairs office, will hold a press conference, and Ma will address reporters 30 minutes later.
Xi and Ma would attend a roundtable banquet dinner from 5.30pm to 6.45pm and had agreed to share the bill, Taiwan’s official Central News Agency reported.
The agency quoted Wu Mei-hung, deputy minister of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, as saying: “It’s not about who will be whose guest at the dinner, but about them having dinner together.”
Wu added that the two leaders would also be sharing the cost of the dinner and hiring the venue at the hotel for their summit meeting.
Both Xi and Ma will fly home after the meeting.
Ma’s flight is scheduled to depart at 8pm on Saturday, while the time of Xi’s flight has yet to be announced.
Shangri-La is part of the Kerry Group, the controlling shareholder of SCMP Group, publisher of the South China Morning Post.