HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam acknowledged on Tuesday that the record number of voters in district elections highlighted dissatisfaction with the government as she thanked residents for voting peacefully despite a relatively volatile environment.
Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam speaks to the media in a weekly news briefing after local elections in Hong Kong, China, November 26, 2019. REUTERS/Marko Djurica
Lam spoke a day after results showed democratic candidates secured almost 90% of 452 district council seats in Sunday’s elections, a landslide victory in polls that were widely seen as a barometer of support for the Beijing-backed leader.
Hong Kong has enjoyed a rare lull in violence for nearly a week, breaking from six months of often violent anti-government unrest that has plunged the former British colony into its biggest political crisis in decades.
The embattled Lam said she hoped the peaceful weekend was not just for the elections but a signal that people in the Chinese-ruled city wanted an end to violence.
Protests have sprung up on an almost daily basis since June, with flash mobs often gathering with little or no notice, at times forcing the government, businesses, schools and even the city’s international airport to close.
The violence had escalated up to last week, with protesters hurling petrol bombs and firing arrows at police who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.
Demonstrators are angry at what they see as Chinese meddling in the freedoms promised to the former British colony when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
China denies interfering and says it is committed to the “one country, two systems” formula put in place at that time. Police say they have shown restraint in the face of potentially deadly attacks.
The anti-government demonstrations bolstered support for democrats in Sunday’s elections, with a record number of residents taking to polling stations to vote.
The victory for the democrats, with a record of nearly 3 million voters, poses a conundrum for Beijing and piles pressure on Lam, who is facing renewed calls to step down. The democrats took control of 17 out of 18 district councils.
Reporting By Clare Jim, Sharon Tam and Noah Sin; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Paul Tait