Hong Kong's Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa has been appointed to China's top political advisory body, the CPPCC.
The Hong Kong government announced the move on Monday, and said Mr Tung would travel to Beijing for the CPPCC's opening session on Saturday.
Mr Tung is unpopular among Hong Kong voters
Analysts were split over the move's implications.
Some saw it bolstering Mr Tung's position; others said it might mark the start of the handover to a new chief executive, due in 2007.
The CPPCC - Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference - is an advisory body that sits at the same time as the national parliament, and its more than 2,000 members carry a lot of influence in the mainland.
It does not make laws or appoint officials. But membership is highly sought after as an expression of closeness to the leadership in Beijing.
Mr Tung was a member once before, but stepped down after he became Hong Kong's leader in 1997.
The announcement he would rejoin the body led to speculation he planned to take a back seat in the running of Hong Kong during the last two years of his term as chief executive, the BBC's Chris Hogg reports from Hong Kong.
But others disagree, arguing that particularly if Mr Tung is appointed a vice-chairman of the body, the status of that position will ensure he is not sidelined, our correspondent says.