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HK's Lam vows to 'listen humbly' to voters after pro-democracy win

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China says it 'resolutely supports' her leadership of Hong Kong

HONG KONG: Mrs Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's deeply unpopular leader vowed yesterday to "listen humbly" to voters after the pro-democracy camp scored a crushing victory in community-level elections that revealed broad public support for a protest movement that has sparked months of violence.

"The government will certainly listen humbly to citizens' opinions and reflect on them seriously," the Chief Executive said in a statement. "The government respects the election results."

She also acknowledged that the result has sparked discussion of the fact that "citizens are dissatisfied with the current social situation and... deep-seated problems", without going into details.

In a rout that stunned the semi-autonomous territory, candidates seeking to loosen control by China seized an overwhelming majority of the 452 seats in the city's 18 district councils, bodies that have historically been firmly in the grip of a Beijing-aligned establishment.

A record 71 per cent of the 4.13 million registered voters cast ballots, according to Hong Kong's election watchdog.

Pro-democracy candidates grabbed 388 seats - a stunning net gain of 263 - according to local media, with the establishment holding on to only 59. Five went to independents.

The result was a humiliating rebuke to Beijing and Mrs Lam, who has dismissed calls for political reform and had repeatedly suggested that a silent majority supported her administration.

She gave no specifics on her next move, but opponents quickly called on her to accede to a five-point list of demands, including direct elections for the city's legislature and leadership and a probe into alleged police brutality against demonstrators.

"The voters used the most peaceful way to tell the government that we won't accept Hong Kong becoming a police state and an authoritarian regime," said chairman of the Democratic Party Wu Chi Wai. "The government must squarely face... public opinion."

The Labour Party, another leading component of the pro-democracy bloc, attributed the election result to "the sweat, blood and tears" of protesters.

District councils handle mundane issues such as garbage collection and the polls typically generate little excitement. But Sunday's contest took on new political significance because of the protests.

The outcome was "nothing short of a revolution", Hong Kong political analyst Willy Lam said.

"It is a sound repudiation of the (Hong Kong) administration and Beijing's policy towards Hong Kong."

He said the result could hasten Beijing's expected removal of Mrs Lam as leader but may also extend the city's crisis.

"Protesters will see this astounding victory as a mandate given by the people, so they will fight harder. But at the same time, there won't be any concessions from Beijing, so the frustration will mount," he told AFP.

China made it clear yesterday that it supports Mrs Lam. "China's central government resolutely supports Chief Executive Carrie Lam's leadership of the Special Administrative Region government," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang. - REUTERS, AFP