Hong Kong's leader Carrie Lam has acknowledged that public dissatisfaction with her government fuelled a landslide win by pro-democracy candidates in local elections, but offered no new concessions to resolve months of violent protests.

Chinese state media sought to downplay and discredit the results of the election weekend, which was widely seen as a referendum on Ms Lam's handling of the unrest.

The city's chief executive promised to improve governance in the wake of the district council elections, which she acknowledged revealed concern over deficiencies in the government, including unhappiness with the time taken to deal with the current unstable environment.

In a retreat that stunned the semi-autonomous territory, candidates campaigning against greater control by China seized an overwhelming majority of 452 elected seats in the city's 18 district councils.

The first vote held since protests took over the city was a humiliating rebuke to Beijing and Ms Lam, who has dismissed calls for political reform and repeatedly suggested that a silent majority supported her administration.

Following the polls, pro-democracy politicians have stepped up calls for Ms Lam to address the movement's key demands such as direct popular elections for the city's leadership and legislature, and a probe into alleged police brutality against demonstrators.

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However in today's press briefing, Ms Lam ignored those calls, denouncing the street violence and repeating an earlier pledge to open a dialogue on the unrest, a proposal that opponents have dismissed as too little, too late.

Millions of Hong Kong citizens took to the streets earlier this year after Ms Lam's government introduced a bill to allow extraditions to China's blurred judicial system.

Although it was eventually withdrawn under public pressure, the bill added fuel to growing fears that Beijing was tightening its grip on the city, unleashing broader public demands for reform and leading to violent clashes between police and protesters.

The public support for change indicated by the election result appeared to end repeated claims by the chief executive and China's government that the protests were the work of a violent radical fringe.

Ms Lam's latest comments indicated no reflection, no response and no resolution for Hong Kong's ongoing crisis, said Lam Cheuk-ting, a leading figure in the Democratic Party, the city's largest anti-establishment party.

Despite pro-establishment camp finally being unsettled by voters, Ms Lam remained firm in her stance.

China's state media cast doubt on the vote's legitimacy, focusing on violence that marred campaigning.

The People's Daily said social unrest "has seriously disrupted the electoral process," with an editorial in the English-language version of the China Daily said it was "skewed by intimidation" and "dirty tricks" that hurt pro-establishment candidates.

The publication said: "External forces that have helped stoke the months-long anti-government campaign in Hong Kong also contributed greatly to damaging the election chances of pro-establishment candidates."

The result revived speculation that Ms Lam might be dumped by Beijing, but a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman yesterday reiterated the government's backing.

Questioned over whether China's leaders had asked her to take responsibility for the retreat, Ms Lam said she had received no such communications from Beijing.

She also repeated calls for a small number of protesters holed up in a university campus surrounded by police for more than a week to come out peacefully.