If you want one person, one vote, this is the price you have to pay. That was the unambiguous message sent from Beijing to Hong Kong yesterday.
The price tag for universal suffrage laid down by the National People's Congress Standing Committee is so steep every Hong Kong person has to ask whether it is worth paying. There comes a time when the citizens of a society are called upon to take a stance for its future. This is one of those moments.
There may be good reasons to reject Beijing's offer. The criteria for selecting chief executive nominees and Beijing's refusal to reform the nominating committee, essentially basing it on the 2012 election committee as if the latter was already "broadly representative" - these alone should be a deal breaker for the most moderate of pan-democrats in the legislature. No one can fault them if they vote against this Beijing-sanctioned political reform package.
But even if you decide the price is too high to pay, you still need to ask whether the consequences of rejection would be more damaging or beneficial to Hong Kong. Rejection would mean a return to the discredited 2012 election system.
There is an alternative argument that we should take the plunge even if it's a deeply flawed suffrage system - one that is probably the best a one-party state like the central government could live with. From Beijing's perspective, it is already offering Hong Kong something that will never be given to any other major cities on the mainland.
Either way, rejection or acceptance, we can safely predict the road ahead will be more protests and police suppression, as Occupy Central and its supporters launched their civil disobedience movement last night.
Hong Kong does not exist in a vacuum. Our fate is inextricably tied to the mainland's. The tragic situation our city now faces is that whatever decision we make, we are looking at further social discontent, political instability and government paralysis. The suffrage system on offer is unlikely to resolve our deep divisions.
No one has a crystal ball. Given the many imponderables, perhaps the best each Hong Kong resident can do is to follow his or her own conscience.