Hong Kong, or at least its chief executive, has literally been put in its place.
A striking departure from past practice in the seating of Leung Chun-ying during meetings in Beijing with President Xi Jinping and other top leaders Wednesday has sparked speculation about Xi’s desire to show who’s boss.
Hong Kong chief executives have always been seated side by side with China’s president when they flew to Beijing to report on their work, in an arrangement similar to that accorded to visiting world leaders.
However, this time, at a meeting chaired by Xi at one end of a long table, Leung was photographed sitting at the side of the table with other officials, including Wang Guangya, director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, National People’s Congress Standing Committee chairman Zhang Dejiang and Vice President Li Yuanchao.
A similar seating plan was used in a separate meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang, Apple Daily reported Thursday.
An unnamed official in the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office told the newspaper that the new seating arrangement was aimed at better reflecting the rules that specify the relationship between Beijing and the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region based on the constitution and the Basic Law.
It would help make the Hong Kong leader’s presentation of his work report “more disciplined and serious”.
Johnny Lau Yui-siu, an independent political commentator in Hong Kong, saw the change as an effort by Xi to emphasize the political hierarchy.
Beijing wants to remind Hong Kong of its subordinate position and therefore the need to respect instructions from the central government, Lau said.
Leung himself put a brave face on the new seating arrangement.
He said it was a good thing to standardize the arrangements for the duty report of the leader of Hong Kong’s government.
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