Former senior government official Carrie Lam has been elected Hong Kong’s next leader by a 1,200-person committee amid competing rallies held outside the election venue over China’s rule.
The 55-year-old former chief secretary won 777 votes from the Election Committee on Sunday, becoming the city’s first female leader.
Lam ran for the top post in the Chinese-ruled financial hub of 7.3 million people against another former official, John Tsang, and retired judge, Woo Kwok-hing.
Security was tight around the venue with metal barricades and large numbers of police deployed, keeping pro-Beijing groups and their rivals apart.
Protesters denounced what they called Beijing’s interference, accusing China of lobbying the voters to back Lam.
Lam is an efficient and pragmatic administrator but his detractors in Hong Kong see her as a proxy for Beijing and out of touch with ordinary people.
She will take over from current leader Leung Chun-ying who is not seeking a second term, citing family reasons.
Members of the Election Committee included tycoons like Li Ka-shing, Hong Kong’s richest person. They represent industry and trade groups such as finance, accounting, real estate and textiles.
Hong Kong lawmakers, local councilors and delegates to China’s parliament also have votes and some 326 seats are held by “pro-democracy” supporters.
Since Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997, Beijing has been walking a fine line for the administration of the city under the formula of “one country, two systems.”
Pro-autonomy groups, meanwhile, have tried to avoid the 2014 protests that pitted young activists against the city’s Beijing-backed government, leaving tensions over the city’s political reform.
Hong Kong’s proximity to China has been a boon for the city, bringing in Chinese investment and spending.
Businesses, however, have faced growing competition from mainland Chinese firms in core sectors like services and property.
Housing prices, now among the world’s highest, are widely seen to have been pushed up by an unrelenting wave of buying from rich Chinese, intensifying anti-Being sentiment.