Chinese President Xi Jinping’s handshake with Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah has sparked speculation on the 2017 Hong Kong chief executive elections.

Xi deliberately detoured to offer a firm handshake to Tsang at the inauguration of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in Beijing.

Left: Xi Jinping’s handshake with John Tsang Chun-wah. Right: Tsang at AIIB meeting. Photo: Now TV.

Speculators suggest the brief handshake may imply that the Central Government prefer Tsang over current Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying as the upcoming candidate, according to Apple Daily.

Tung Chee-hwa’s handshake with Jiang Zemin.

This speculation stems from historical moments since 1996. Tung Chee-hwa won the handshake of then Chinese president Jiang Zemin while campaigning for chief executive elections in January 1996. Needless to say, Tung then successfully became the first chief executive in 1997.

Donald Tsang’s handshake with Hu Jintao.

After Tung stepped down in 2005, former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen attended a financial forum in Beijing where former president Hu Jintao offered a six-second long handshake.

Ivan Choy Chi-keung, senior lecturer at the Chinese University of Hong Kong said that “political implications” are present in hand-shaking regardless of Chinese or international politics. “The Central Government must be aware that Xi’s handshake will lead to speculation. Beijing must know the rules of the game and definitely know that Hong Kongers will interpret it,” the academic said.

Another commentator on China issues told Apple Daily that Xi usually only “nods his head, extends his hand” to Chinese delegates, but would not take the initiative to offer a handshake in the same manner as he did with Tsang.

Tsang attended the ceremony as a member of the China delegation and was arranged to sit closest to the entrance of the conference room. When asked by the media whether Hong Kong would join the AIIB, he responded that details are still to be discussed.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Paul Benedict Lee

Paul Benedict Lee is an undergraduate law student at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Paul has previously contributed to HK Magazine and Radio Television Hong Kong, covering issues ranging from local heritage conservation to arts features. He has also worked as a legal intern at local human rights firm Daly & Associates.