A COMMITTEE dominated by pro-Beijing elites has picked China favourite Carrie Lam to lead the former British territory in the first such poll since huge pro-democracy protests erupted in 2014.
The election committee’s 1194 members voted at an exhibition centre, with Lam, the city’s former second most senior official, widely expected to win after backing from China’s communist leaders.
Pro-Beijing and pro-democracy groups held competing rallies outside the election venue, kept apart by hundreds of police officers.
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The pro-democracy crowd chanted “I want genuine democracy” – the usual slogan for opponents of the current system.
Pro-democracy activists have criticised the system as a “fake” election and it was at the root of huge protests in 2014.
Lam garnered 777 votes while her closest rival, former financial secretary John Tsang, trailed with 365. Retired judge Woo Kwok-hing had 21 votes.
Tsang was much more popular locally, but neither he nor Woo had Beijing’s backing.
Lam will be the first woman leader for the city and its fourth since British colonial control ended.
She is an efficient and pragmatic administrator but unpopular with Hong Kong people because she is seen as a proxy for Beijing and out of touch with ordinary people.
Her victory was no surprise because China’s communist leadership had lobbied the committee to support her.
Her main rival was former finance chief John Tsang, highly popular because of his easy-going persona and deft use of social media to connect with residents, but he did not have Beijing’s support.
Lam takes over from current leader Leung Chun-ying, who was not seeking a second term, citing family reasons.
Political analysts suspect Beijing asked Leung, a highly polarising figure, to step aside so someone more popular can take over.
Members of the Hong Kong’s election committee included tycoons like Li Ka-shing, Hong Kong’s richest citizen.
They represented industry and trade groups such as finance, accounting, property and textiles, with most supporting China’s communist leaders and are expected to vote according to their wishes.
Hong Kong politicians, councillors and delegates to China’s parliament also have votes and some 326 seats, mostly in the education, legal, health and social welfare sectors, are held by pro-democracy supporters.
Lam said: “My priority will be to heal the divide and to ease the frustrations and to unite our society to move forward.”
She will take office on July 1.