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Landslide win for HK democrats puts pressure on leader Carrie Lam

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Pro-democrat supporters celebrating upset wins against heavyweight pro-Beijing opponents. Almost three million people voted, a record turnout of more than 71 per cent.

Hong Kong

HONG Kong's democrats scored a landslide majority in district council elections, which saw a record turnout after six months of anti-government protests, increasing pressure on the Chinese-ruled city's leader on Monday to listen to calls for democracy.

Sunday's elections marked a rare weekend lull in the sometimes violent unrest, with democratic candidates securing nearly 90 per cent of the 452 district council seats, broadcaster RTHK reported, despite a strongly resourced and mobilised pro-establishment opposition.

Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam said in a statement the government respected the results and wished "the peaceful, safe and orderly situation to continue".

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"There are various analyses and interpretations in the community in relation to the results, and 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," she said.

The government would "listen to the opinions of members of the public humbly and seriously reflect", Mrs Lam said.

Results showed upset wins for democrats against heavyweight pro-Beijing opponents when they started trickling in after midnight on Sunday.

Regina Ip, a member of the Hong Kong government's leading advisory body and a former security chief, was loudly heckled on the streets of Central by lunchtime protesters.

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

Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai said: "Today's result is the first step of our long way to democracy."

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.

The pro-democracy camp only secured around 100 seats at the previous polls four years ago. Almost three million people voted, a record turnout of more than 71 per cent that appeared to have been spurred by the turmoil, almost double the number last time.

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," she said. She said the party rejected her offer to resign earlier on Monday.

Hong Kong's district councils control some spending and decide a range of livelihood issues such as transport. They also serve as an important grassroots platform to radiate political influence.

"I believe this result is because there are a lot of voters who hope to use this election and their vote to show their support for the (protest) movement, and their five demands, and their dissatisfaction with the Hong Kong government," said former student leader Lester Shum, who won a seat.

The protesters' demands include full democracy, as well as an independent inquiry into perceived police brutality.

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 for the autonomy of Hong Kong put in place in 1997.

Jimmy Sham, a leader of the Civil Human Rights Front, which organised some of the anti-government rallies, won his electoral contest, as did Kelvin Lam, who stood in after prominent activist Joshua Wong was barred from running.

A number of pro-Beijing heavyweights including Junius Ho, whose abrasive public comments have made him a hate-figure among many protesters, lost to pro-democracy challengers. He described it on Facebook as "an unusual result". REUTERS