The Standing Committee of the National Peoples Congress (NPC) said it had endorsed a framework to let only two or three candidates run in a 2017 vote for Hong Kongs next leader. All candidates must first obtain majority backing from a nominating committee likely to be stacked with Beijing loyalists.
The relatively tough decision by the NPC - Chinas final arbiter on the citys democratic affairs - makes it almost impossible for opposition democrats to get on the ballot.
This is a legal, fair and reasonable decision. It is a dignified, prudent decision, and its legal effect is beyond doubt, Li Fei, the deputy secretary general of the NPC standing committee, told reporters after the decision.
Hundreds of Occupy Central activists, who demand Beijing allow a real, free election, will this evening hold a small protest to formally launch their campaign of civil disobedience, that will climax with a blockade the citys business district.
Political reform has been a constant source of friction between Hong Kongs pro-democracy movement and the mainland since the former British colony was handed back to Communist Party rulers in 1997.
In nearby Macau, another special administrative region, leader and sole candidate Fernando Chui was re-elected on Sunday by a select panel of 400 largely pro-China loyalists in the tiny but wealthy former Portuguese colony.
The activists in Hong Kong stressed that they wouldnt paralyse the Central district immediately but would this evening lay out plans for smaller actions in the coming weeks leading up to a full-scale protest in the main business district.Scores of police vehicles and hundreds of officers were deployed outside Hong Kong government headquarters as people began to gather, some chanting slogans.