After months of pro-democracy demonstrations and an increasingly violent uprising against the Beijing-backed local government, Hong Kong’s voters have sent a clear rebuke to the Chinese Communist Party by handing a clear victory to pro-democracy candidates in local elections held on November 24.

90% of Hong Kong’s District Council seats were won by pro-democracy candidates after nearly 3 million people, or 71% of the region’s population, cast a vote. 

Hong Kong’s leader, Beijing-backed Carrie Lam, accepted the elections’ results saying that her Government would respect the outcome and “humbly listen” to the views of Hong Kong’s residents.

Communist Party officials in mainland China were far less magnanimous in their response to the results. China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, during a visit to Japan, said: “Whatever happens, Hong Kong is always a part of China and any attempts to create chaos or to jeopardise its prosperity and stability will not be successful.”

The latest development marks an unprecedented change in Hong Kong’s politics, where the local pro-Beijing apparatchiks have benefitted from the wealth of the former British colony’s financial resources and reputation as one of the world’s chief financial centres.

Clarisse Yeung, an artist-turned-politician who campaigned for the pro-democracy forces, praised the results saying that “I would not use the word happy, but we have made progress towards a situation where we can fight back against the government. It’s important because we all know that we have been sacrificing so much in the past few months. The people of Hong Kong are no longer naive. We have to prepare ourselves. We have to have faith in ourselves to bring change.”

Even though the local councils have limited powers, they play a role in choosing the city’s chief executive and some legislators, which may lay the foundation for the anti-Beijing democrats to select Hong Kong’s new leader.