Hong Kong's new leader said Monday he would "humbly" listen to the public, a day after the city saw its biggest protest in nearly a decade on the 15th anniversary of its return to Chinese rule.
Organisers said 400,000 people took to the streets Sunday to protest against Leung Chun-ying's leadership and Beijing's interference in local affairs, hours after Leung was sworn in as chief executive before Chinese President Hu Jintao.
Police claimed a much lower turnout of 63,000, but both estimates were their respective highest crowd numbers in eight years.
"My government and I will seriously and humbly listen to the people's demands, no matter through what means or how many people were there," Leung said on the massive protest.
"We hope we can fight together with the people to fulfill the people's demands," he told reporters as he visited a local neighbourhood, part of a charm campaign designed to address simmering public discontent.
Sunday's protest came as a defiant reception for Leung and a show of popular anger 15 years after the former British colony was returned to Chinese rule. It retains a semi-autonomous status with its own legal and financial systems.
President Hu's weekend visit was held under smothering security, and drew sneers from Hong Kongers as anti-Beijing sentiment surges to a post-handover high in opinion polls.
Leung has pledged to tackle people's grievances, including soaring housing prices and a widening gap between the rich and poor in the southern Chinese city of seven million.
But even before his term began Sunday, Leung had already attracted protests drawing thousands of people decrying Chinese interference in the March election where he was picked by a committee stacked with pro-Beijing elites.
"Usually we expect a newcomer to have a sort of honeymoon period but he will never have one, it will be a difficult period for him," Chinese University of Hong Kong political analyst Ma Ngok told AFP.