Hong Kong's former chief secretary Carrie Lam has scored a landslide victory in the chief executive election to become Hong Kong's first female leader.
Mrs Lam, 59, won 777 votes, or 67 per cent of the 1,163 valid votes cast by a largely pro-Beijing election committee, to beat former financial chief John Tsang, 65, who had 365 votes, and retired judge Woo Kwok Hing, 70, who had only 21 votes.
While Mr Tsang has enjoyed better public approval ratings throughout the campaign, Mrs Lam was expected to win as she was seen as Beijing's preferred candidate.
Pro-democracy protesters held a rally demanding universal suffrage outside the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre where the election was held yesterday.
Pledging to build unity in a divided city, Mrs Lam said after her win: "Hong Kong, our home, is suffering from quite serious divisiveness and has accumulated a lot of frustration. My priority will be to heal the divide and to ease the frustration - and to unite our society to move forward.
She urged Hong Kongers to give her time to mend divisions by "caring, listening, taking action", and also vowed to safeguard Hong Kong's core values and uphold the "one country, two systems" framework that allows Hong Kong a high level of autonomy.
China yesterday endorsed Mrs Lam's election, with the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office saying she fulfilled the criteria of the central government, including being patriotic and having the trust of Beijing.
Mrs Lam will succeed Mr Leung Chun Ying on July 1, which marks the 20th anniversary of the city's return to China. He congratulated her after her win, saying there will be a seamless transition.
Analysts said Mrs Lam will face the challenge of balancing the demands of Beijing and growing calls for democracy in Hong Kong, as underlined by violent street protests and direct challenges to Beijing's authority by localist lawmakers in the Legislative Council.
One priority would be to reach out to pro-democracy lawmakers.
"I too, want more democracy in Hong Kong," she said. But because the city is "facing a lot of problems", she proposed to handle the "easier subjects" first, and "get something done for the people of Hong Kong".
In 2014, when Mrs Lam was chief secretary, she failed to push through a political reform package that would allow Hong Kongers to pick their leader, albeit from a pool of candidates approved by a pro-Beijing committee.
The controversial package led thousands of students to camp out in the streets for 79 days to demand a freer election.
"Carrie Lam is not popular. She has to take the lead to go out there to engage Hong Kongers," said Ms Emily Lau, former chairman of the Democratic Party.
But administrative officer Jenny Kwan, 52, told The Straits Times: "To fix the many problems Hong Kong faces today, we need a leader who dares to make decisions, is dedicated and capable. I feel that people should not oppose a leader just because she is supported by Beijing."