"I have tried my very best and have suffered the greatest pressure. It's like liberating myself." That's how Ronny Tong Ka-wah describes his decision to end his lone one-year campaign for a moderate political-reform plan.
"I cannot see there is any way out for moderate proposals," the Civic Party lawmaker said yesterday after announcing his decision online.
His lament followed Occupy Central's unofficial referendum that saw more than 780,000 people backing public nomination.
Tong said there was now only a glimmer of hope for universal suffrage, with any prospect of consensus having receded so far as to be almost unreachable.
"You cannot ignore the fact that there are some 700,000 people - at least 60 per cent of overall pan-democratic supporters - calling for a proposal which would allow the public to nominate chief executive hopefuls," he said.
"There's zero chance for a moderate model to get passed in the legislature even if Beijing gave it a green light, as no political parties would make a U-turn to support any middle-ground plan [after the referendum]."
He said he was sure most voters understood that public nomination might be turned down, "but [Hongkongers] still adopt this 'all-or-nothing approach'."
Tong, considered a "naughty child" in the party he co-founded, started concocting his own proposal a year ago and officially announced it last October to a lukewarm response from his allies.
He omitted nomination rights for all registered voters - an idea demanded by his allies but rejected by Beijing - focusing on expanding the electoral base of the nominating committee.
"I am not scrapping my proposal, but I will neither advocate it nor meet any middlemen from Beijing or the government on the matter," Tong said.
His decision means he won't be returning to the front line of the Alliance for True Democracy.
"It's hard to convince myself to push for something I don't believe in," he admitted, referring to the alliance's plan which seeks public and party nomination.
Tong first hinted at the "hard decision" to end his battle when a seminar he organised in June was stormed by radical activists, but the hundreds of thousands of voters finally made up his mind.
He said it was the pan-democrats' decision to scrap his plan, the only one with a chance of being accepted by Beijing.
"Perhaps it's time for me to take a rest."
But Tong has not formally quit the alliance.