Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam vows to 'listen humbly' after shock poll result
Hong Kong: Hong Kong's deeply unpopular leader vowed Monday 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 stirred months of violence.
In a rout that stunned the semi-autonomous territory, candidates seeking to loosen control by China seized an overwhelming majority of the 452 elected seats in the city's 18 district councils, bodies that have historically been firmly in the grip of a Beijing-aligned establishment.
The result, the first vote to be held since protests engulfed the city, was a humiliating rebuke to Beijing and Chief Executive Carrie Lam. She has stubbornly dismissed calls for political reform and repeatedly suggested that a silent majority supported her administration and opposed the protest movement.
"The government will certainly listen humbly to citizens' opinions and reflect on them seriously," Lam said in a statement issued by the government.
But she gave no specifics on the likely response.
China's foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Beijing "resolutely supports" the leader and backs the police and judiciary in Hong Kong in "punishing relevant violent and illegal behaviours".
Opponents quickly called on Lam 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 government must squarely face public opinion," said Wu Chi-wai, the chairman of the Democratic Party, Hong Kong's largest anti-establishment party.
The Labour Party, another leading component of the pro-democracy bloc, attributed the election result to "the sweat, blood and tears" of protesters.
There has been no tear gas fired in Hong Kong for a week, rare respite for a city upturned by months of chaos and violence. The lull follows some of the most intense clashes yet between police and protesters at the city centre PolyU campus.
Dozens of newly elected councillors marched on Monday evening on the campus urging police to allow the small number of hardcore protesters who remain holed-up inside to leave freely.
"The people of Hong Kong of spoken," Paul Zimmerman, a pro-democracy councillor re-elected in Sunday's poll, said in a speech outside PolyU.