Critics have accused the 1,194-member election committee of being heavily stacked with Beijing loyalists. Protests have coincided with the selection process, which pits establishment figures against each other.
Hong Kong’s election committee chose former government official Carrie Lam as the city’s next leader on Sunday, local broadcaster Cable TV reported.
Lam, widely billed as Beijing’s top pick, won with 772 votes, the South China Morning Post reported, citing an unofficial count.
Pro-democracy protesters gathered near the polling site. Many of them carried placards criticizing the electoral process. They were in turn surrounded by dozens of counter-demonstrators. Police cordoned off the area to separate the two groups.
Activists claim that the majority of the city’s 7.3 million people have no say in their next leader.
Although Hong Kong’s Basic Law stipulates the city should work towards universal suffrage, proposals to reform the election process have stalled since 2014, when pro-democracy protests swept across the city.
That year, Beijing agreed to allow residents to vote for the next leader. However, under the deal, the candidates would be vetted by an election committee of alleged pro-China members.
The proposal prompted mass protests called the Umbrella Movement, led by a small group of students urging authorities to implement democratic reforms.
In 2015, pro-democracy lawmakers rejected the Beijing-backed reform plan, effectively stalling the debate.
China’s foreign ministry said Sunday’s vote was not only relevant for the city, but also to “the central government’s exercise of sovereignty and governance over Hong Kong.”
Hundreds of protesters had also taken to the streets on Saturday to protests their exclusion from the electoral process for the city’s chief executive.