Hong Kong's Beijing-backed government is the big loser from weekend legislative polls despite the poor showing of opposition democratic parties, media reports said Tuesday.
Pro-democrats won only 27 seats even though they secured almost 60 percent of the popular vote, while the establishment camp won 43 seats thanks to an electoral system that is tilted in favour of big business and vested interests.
The pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong is the strongest force with 13 seats in the Legislative Council (Legco), a result hailed as a "huge strategic success" by the state-owned China Daily newspaper.
Independent media observers said radical parties did better than mainstream democrats at capitalising on strong anti-government sentiment and frustration with the lack of full democracy in the former British colony.
"The dominance of government allies suggests no easy road" for Beijing-backed government leader Leung Chun-ying, the South China Morning Post said in an editorial.
"The wider political spectrum in a larger Legco means more uncertainties and the need for harder lobbying. There will be more political stunts and resistance from rebel lawmakers.
"The rising support for radical pro-democracy groups and the general anti-communist sentiments... are worrying signs of growing discontent with the government and Beijing -- a problem that should not be ignored."
The Wall Street Journal said Beijing should "draw the right lesson" from the election in its semi-autonomous southern territory -- that Hong Kong people do not want a political culture imposed on them from above.
"Beijing must recognise that if Mr Leung becomes too unpopular, there will be few viable candidates to replace him," it said in an editorial headlined "Hong Kong votes for autonomy".
"Hong Kong will become impossible to govern if the local government is not allowed to formulate policy without Beijing's interference, and if it doesn't prepare the way for the genuine transition to democracy in 2017 that the people demand."
Beijing has promised universal suffrage for Hong Kong's next leadership election in 2017, and by 2020 for the legislature, but democrats are preparing for a fight amid fears the mainland will try to veto candidates.
The election results mean the democratic bloc retained its critical one-third minority, giving it the power of veto over changes to the Basic Law that will be required for electoral reform.
But Hong Kong's anti-Beijing Apple Daily said the outcome was a blow for the democratic movement, which suffered the "worst result since the handover" from Britain in 1997 in terms of the size of the pro-establishment majority.
The Beijing-backed Wen Wei Po daily said the "rise of the radical forces" was a warning to the establishment camp that it had to work harder to win support from younger voters.
The Beijing-funded Ta Kung Pao newspaper said Leung faced four years of "consultations, amendments, opposition and filibuster".