Hong Kong’s unpopular leader Carrie Lam said on Monday her government would “listen humbly” to the public after voters dealt a humiliating election setback to the Beijing-backed establishment she heads.
“The government will certainly listen humbly to citizens’ opinions and reflect on them seriously,” she said in a statement issued by the government.
Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp scored a crushing victory in community-level elections held on Sunday, a result that made clear the level of public support for the demands of a protest movement that has thrown the territory into turmoil.
In a rout that stunned the semi-autonomous Chinese territory, candidates favouring greater democracy seized an overwhelming majority of the 452 seats in the city’s 18 district councils.
The councils have historically been firmly in the grip of the Beijing-aligned establishment.
The protest movement has several key demands including direct popular elections and a probe into alleged police brutality, and the result may bring new pressure on Lam to meet them.
She has previously rejected the demands as “wishful thinking” and repeatedly suggested the ballot would show most Hong Kongers supported her administration and an end to the protests.
“The government respects the election results,” Lam said.
She also acknowledged that the result has sparked discussion of the fact “citizens are dissatisfied with the current social situation and … deep-seated problems,” without going into details.
The unrest erupted earlier this year when Lam’s government introduced a bill that would have allowed extraditions to China’s opaque judicial system.
It was later withdrawn, but the anger it unleashed triggered a wider movement for change that brought millions into the streets and saw violent clashes between police and protesters.