China-backed Carrie Lam has been chosen as Hong Kong's first female chief executive by the all-powerful Election Committee on Sunday (26 March). The 59-year-old former chief secretary won the first round of voting with a comfortable majority clinching 777 votes out of 1,194.
Lam, who is Beijing's favourite, defeated underdogs John Tsang and Woo Kwok-hing – two other candidates who have now conceded defeat – by the comfortable margin as her victory seemed imminent. Lam was chosen by a panel of mostly Beijing loyalists and of Hong Kong's elite. Members of the committee start casting ballot at about 9am local time (1am GMT).
Lam's elevation, widely seen by Hongkongers as a move to cement pro-establishment powers, is likely to stir further tension in the fragile relations between China and semi-autonomous Hong Kong. Her hardline and pro-Beijing stance is bound to be a cause of worry.
Protesters who were already outside the polling site prior to the voting have voiced serious concerns against Lam's election. They say the selection process was nothing but a sham.
"I hope they will continue to serve the people of HK with me in ways they see fit," Lam told reporters soon after the elections. "Before my campaign, I thought I understood the many problems with my public service record," she added. "But during the campaign, I have learned so much more and know of my defects..."
Speaking about the political reforms and the recent rise in pro-democracy demands, Lam said: "I too want more democracy in Hong Kong. But Hong Kong is facing a lot of problems. Why don't we start with the easier subjects?" and added, "What I cannot promise is pace and speed and a timetable."
Meanwhile, Chan Kin-man, leading pro-democracy figure and co-founder of the Occupy Central, said after the results were declared, "While Occupy Central is the civil awakening of many young people, the election this time is going to be another one for the middle-aged who support John Tsang. More people now realise that the full implementation of 'one country, two systems' would not be possible without a fair election method."
Unsurprisingly, many dignitaries in Hong Kong have welcomed Lam's selection, which would not anger Beijing.