Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong have vowed to press ahead with a civil disobedience campaign, heckling a top Beijing official on Monday as he tried to explain why China's parliament has ruled out full democracy for the former British colony.
Li Fei, a Hong Kong affairs committee member of China's top legislative body, the National People's Congress (NPC) , was forced to speak over the shouts of veteran lawmaker and activist Leung Kwok-hung, also known as "Long Hair," as he took the podium at the Asia World Expo convention center.
"The central government broke its promise," the activists chanted, while others held banners bearing the slogan: "Shameless!" before being ejected from the meeting.
Police later confirmed they had fired pepper spray at protesters outside the venue for "behaving violently," although no details of the violence were given.
On Sunday, organizers of the Occupy Central universal suffrage campaign said Hong Kong has now entered "an era of civil disobedience," after the NPC confirmed that only candidates vetted by a pro-Beijing committee will be allowed to enter the 2017 race for the territory's next chief executive.
Thousands gathered outside the Grand Hyatt in Hong Kong as Li arrived in the city ahead of Monday's conference, with organizers counting some 5,000 participants, mostly students.
Police said just 2,600 were present at the peak of the protest, however.
Abuse of powers
Yvonne Leung, a student leader at the Hong Kong Federation of Students, hit out at Hong Kong police for abuse of their powers.
"Everyone should be free to go in and out of a hotel, but [some of the protesters] were carried away," Leung said of Sunday's protest.
"I think this constitutes an unreasonable use of force."
She said the Federation would begin a series of student boycotts of classes in September, in protest at the NPC's decision.
Occupy co-founder Benny Tai, the Alliance for True Democracy, Scholarism, and the Federation of Students, have said that more information on the movement's plans will be released in the next few weeks.
'Hostile foreign forces'
Beijing officials have repeatedly said they won't accept the election of anyone who is disloyal to China, while official media has increasingly accused "hostile foreign forces" and "Western political forces" of fueling dissent in China, including Hong Kong.
"Anyone who does not love the country, love Hong Kong, or is confrontational towards the central government shall not be the chief executive," Li told delegates on Monday.
Meanwhile, chief executive Leung Chun-ying, who was elected by a 1,200-strong pro-Beijing committee, called on pan-democrat campaigners to accept the situation.
"It is something that we should all feel proud of and it is an opportunity we should all treasure," Leung told reporters on Monday.
The NPC's framework for the 2017 elections still needs the support of some pan-democratic lawmakers to pass through the territory's Legislative Council, but Beijing has warned that no changes will be made to the current election system if the bill is rejected.
Former second-in-command Anson Chan, who has actively campaigned for public nomination but distanced herself from the Occupy movement, said the framework was disappointing.
"If we accept this proposal for the 2017 elections for chief executive ... then won't that encourage even greater disregard for the law [on Beijing's part]?"
"This proposal for screening candidates could be in place for the long term, so this city can't accept this fakery on the part of the Hong Kong and central governments," Chan said.
City University political science professor Joseph Cheng said the NPC's decision had left the city's democracy campaign with no room for maneuver.
"Under this framework, the people of Hong Kong will basically have no choice; there will be no real competition, so you can't really call it an election," Cheng said.
He said campaigners should continue to use peaceful means to fight for basic political rights for Hong Kong citizens, because the city's traditional freedoms are now widely perceived as being under threat from Beijing.
"We aren't just talking about fighting for electoral democracy now; our way of life and the dignity of our citizens are under threat," Cheng said.
"Whatever the outcome, we should aim to retain our dignity and basic principles," he added.
Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau said she wasn't surprised by the outcome.
"I hope that the central government can find a way to genuinely listen to the opinions of Hong Kong people, who are asking that there be no unreasonable restrictions on these elections," Lau said.
"[They should] allow Hong Kong voters a genuine choice."
"This decision by the NPC in Beijing, this proposal, won't give Hong Kong people a real choice, so they won't support it," she said.
Taiwan-based pro-democracy activist and former Tiananmen Square student leader Wang Dan accused Beijing of reneging on promises of universal, direct elections made in Hong Kong's mini-constitution, the Basic Law.
"Right now we are seeing the clash of two very different political forces in Hong Kong," Wang told RFA on Monday. "One is the anti-democracy force of the Chinese Communist Party, and the other is a citizen-based movement for democracy in all parts of greater China."
He said developments in Hong Kong are being anxiously watched by the 23 million residents of Taiwan, a fully democratic island which has governed its own affairs since 1949 without ever declaring formal independence.
"If Hong Kong falls, then Taiwan will find itself in the middle of a crisis," Wang warned.
In March, thousands of student-led protesters surrounded and occupied Taiwan's parliament and government buildings over a trade pact with Beijing the opposition said could open the door to Chinese influence over the island's politics, via vested business interests.
Reported by Lin Jing and Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by He Ping and Xin Lin for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.