Hong Kong protest march
Hong Kong protest march YouTube grab

Pro-democracy candidates have registered a thumping win in Hong Kong local elections, underscoring the trouble that lies ahead for the leadership in mainland China. In a landslide victory, the democrats won in 388 seats, whereas pro-Beijing candidates won in 58 seats, local media reports said.

There is a great groundswell in Hong Kong who believes in democracy," says David Alton, international observer and a member of the British House of Lords.

The self-ruled city of 7.4 million people went to the polls under the shadow of violent protests but the polling itself was peaceful and no violent incident was reported. The elections were held to elect representatives for 452 district council seats. Residents turned out in record numbers even as the pro-Beijing establishment had mustered all resources to tilt the electoral balance.

"I would like to say 'no' to the government, to what they have done these past few months ... It makes me very angry ... [Chief Executive] Carrie Lam just doesn't listen to Hong Kong. We've come out so many times and they don't listen and make this situation worse," a voter who lined up in front of a polling booth told Al Jazeera, summarising the mood of the electorate.

Hong Kong protest
Demonstrators carry a former colonial Hong Kong flag during a protest. Reuters

The big turnout means "there is a great groundswell in Hong Kong who believes in democracy," David Alton, international observers and a member of the British House of Lords, told the Associated Press.

Though the district councils deal mainly with civic issues, the elections were seen as a referendum on the current leadership that leans towards China. Hong Kong has been gripped by a tense and long protest that began six months ago against the move to pass an extradition bill under which suspects would be transferred to foreign territories including to mainland China.

Democrats control 17 out of 18 district councils

With counting in all seats over, the pro-democracy parties have won in 347 seats, while the pro-establishment parties won in 60 seats. The independents accounted for 45 seats but most of them align with the pro-democracy movement. As the complete results have come, it's clear that pro-democracy parties will control 17 out of 18 district councils.

Carrie Lam reacts

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam IANS

Hong Kong's embattled chief executive Carrie Lam said the administration will "listen to the opinions of members of the public humbly and seriously reflect". "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, according to the South China Morning Post.