The semi-autonomous Hong Kong has been governed under a "one country, two systems" deal since it was handed back to China by colonial ruler Britain in 1997.
A Beijing-backed civil servant, Carrie Lam, was chosen to be Hong Kong's next leader on Sunday amid accusations that Beijing was meddling and denying the financial hub a more populist leader perhaps better able to defuse political tension.
The majority of the China-ruled city's 7.3 million people have no say in deciding their leader, who is chosen from among several candidates by a 1,200-person "election committee" stacked with pro-Beijing and pro-establishment loyalists.
Lam, who will become Hong Kong's first female chief executive when she takes office on July 1, won 777 votes compared to 365 for her closest rival, former financial secretary John Tsang, who polls show is more popular.
A third candidate, retired judge Woo Kwok-hing, got 21 votes.
Some scuffles broke out outside the voting centre between protesters and a large contingent of police, who used metal barricades to keep the demonstrations well away.
The activists denounced Beijing's "interference" amid widespread reports of unprecedented lobbying of voters to back Lam, rather than Tsang, chanting "I want universal suffrage" when the result was announced.
"Lies, coercion, whitewash," read one banner. A big yellow banner calling for full democracy was hung from the Lion Rock peak overlooking the city.
"The central government has intervened again and again," said Carmen Tong, a 20-year-old student. "It's very unjust."
TRT World spoke to journalist Brittyn Clennett in Hong Kong.
Hundreds of Lam supporters waved China flags and cheered inside and outside the venue after Lam's win.
Since Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997, Beijing has gradually increased control over it even though China had promised wide-ranging freedoms and autonomy not allowed on the mainland under the formula of "one country, two systems", along with an undated promise of universal suffrage.
Many, including opposition democrats, fear Lam will continue the tough policies of staunchly pro-Beijing incumbent Leung Chun-ying, a controversial figure who ordered the firing of tear gas on pro-democracy protesters in 2014 and who was not seen to be defending Hong Kong's autonomy and core values.
"She doesn't have a strong foundation, nor will she have a honeymoon after she's elected," said political scientist Ivan Choy.
"But whether she will further divide society, we still have to wait and see what she does, whether she will continue the approach of Leung."