Moderates on both sides of political divide gripped by pessimism
Political moderates met the news from Beijing with stony expressions and in some cases tears, when they learned that the 2017 chief executive election would be tightly controlled by Beijing.
Moderate pan-democrats lined up to criticise Beijing's decision and state that they would vote against it, casting severe doubt on the government's ability to win the two-thirds majority a reform package will need in the Legislative Council.
Civic Party lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah cried as he reacted on a live Cable TV programme.
"It is the darkest day in the road for democracy," he said. "I am disheartened … I don't see a future for moderates in Hong Kong politics."
A moderate reform plan he drew up - under which the public would not be allowed to nominate chief executive candidates - received a cool response from his allies.
The barrister said he would think carefully about the next step in his political career after a decision from Beijing that was "more undemocratic than I could imagine".
"I thought there would be [some] chance for future dialogue," he said, referring to when pan-democrats were invited for talks with Beijing officials last month. "But now, I don't see any chance."
About 50 social scientists signed a statement accusing Beijing of betraying its promise to allow Hong Kong to be governed democratically, and they promised they would continue to strive for democracy in future.
Five pan-democrats must support any reform package for it to pass in Legco, but other moderates indicated strong opposition. Information technology sector lawmaker Charles Mok and education sector representative Ip Kin-yuen vowed to vote against the reform plan.
Former University of Hong Kong law dean Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun called it a "very bad decision" for the city. "The ultra-conservative decision … suggests there is no room for discussion at all. Almost every proposal from the community, including those from moderates, has been rejected."
A spokeswoman for former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang, whose group Hong Kong 2020 proposed a moderate reform plan, said the decision made "a complete mockery of the public consultation" by the Hong Kong government.
"The decisions leave no room for further consultation or attempts to reach consensus. We urge Hong Kong people not to be fooled by sham democracy," the spokeswoman added.
Moderate Beijing loyalists called for calm. Legco President Jasper Tsang Yok-sing, who signed a petition urging consensus ahead of Beijing's decision, said: "I hope everyone - including our friends in the pan-democratic camp - will stay rational and pragmatic to come up with a solution that is in the best interest of Hong Kong."