Pro-democracy victory in Hong Kong puts pressure on Beijing-backed leader Carrie Lam

Access to the comments Comments
By Sofia Sanchez Manzanaro  with Reuters
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam leaves after speaking to the media, after casting her vote at a polling station during district council local elections in Hong Kong
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam leaves after speaking to the media, after casting her vote at a polling station during district council local elections in Hong Kong   -  Copyright  REUTERS/Thomas Peter

Hong Kong's leader Carrie Lam said on Monday that she will "listen to the opinions of members of the public humbly and seriously reflect", after pro-democracy achieved a landslide victory in the District Council elections. Lam said the government respects the results and wished "the peaceful, safe and orderly situation to continue".

Democratic candidates secured almost 90% of 452 district council seats in Sunday's poll and gained control of 17 out of the citiy’s 18 district councils. Before this election, pro-Beijing parties held the power in all but one of the councils.

"Quite a few are of the view that the results reflect people's dissatisfaction with the current situation and the deep-seated problems in society," Lam said.

The elections saw record turnout after six months of protests and brought upset wins for democrats against heavyweight pro-Beijing opponents, greeted in some voting centres by chants of "Liberate Hong Kong" and "Revolution Now".

Beijing backs Carrie Lam

When asked if the chief executive should consider her position in light of the election results, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Beijing "firmly supports"Lam's leadership.

Hong Kong's most urgent task was to restore order and stop the violence, Geng told a daily press briefing.

In self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims as its own, the Presidential Office expressed "great admiration and support" for the election result.

"The election fully demonstrates Hong Kong people's absolute will to pursue freedom and democracy," it said. The number of seats held by the pro-democracy camp more than quadrupled and turnout, at 71%, was almost double the number inthe previous polls four years ago.

Starry Lee, chairwoman of the city's largest pro-Beijing party, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, apologised for her party's performance.

"For this major defeat, we do not want to find any excuses and reasons," said Lee. She said the party rejected her offer to resign earlier on Monday.

REUTERS/Thomas Peter
Officials open a ballot box at the polling station in the South Horizons West district as voting official closes in Hong Kong, China November 24, 2019.REUTERS/Thomas Peter

What is the impact of the election?

While district councils deal with local issues such as transport, recycling and recreation activities, their members also form part of the election committee for Hong Kong's chief executive.

This could give them some influence over the next vote in 2022. The Chief Executive is elected by a 1,200-member election committee, that includes 117 chosen by district councillors. In this system, the winner takes it all: the group (pro-democracy) wins a majority of votes in the Disctric Council elections can claim all the 117 seats.

Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai described the election as the first step in the long way to full democracy. "This district election shows that the central government needs to face the demands of a democratic system," he said.

Along with universal suffrage, the protesters' demands include an independent inquiry into perceived police brutality.

The voting ended with no major disruptions across the city of 7.4 million people on a day that saw massive, though orderly, queues form outside voting centres.

"This is the power of democracy. This is a democratic tsunami," said Tommy Cheung, a former student protest leader whowon a seat in the Yuen Long district close to China's border.

REUTERS/Laurel Chor
People line up to vote in district council elections in South Horizons in Hong Kong, China November 23, 2019REUTERS/Laurel Chor