The intervention by the Bar Association over the political reform debate is timely and welcome. By now, it should be clear the fight for universal suffrage must focus on the composition of the nominating committee. The association rightly rejects public nomination as it effectively bypasses the committee's powers and renders it irrelevant as a rubberstamp.
The furore over it has been needlessly promoted by Occupy Central's Benny Tai Yiu-ting, the Civic Party's Audrey Eu Yuet-mee and the Scholarism kiddies. They have sidetracked the whole debate and steered it towards a dead end. Wiser and more experienced pan-democratic leaders have already abandoned public nomination, including Martin Lee Chu-ming and Anson Chan Fang On-sang, neither of whom can be said to be pandering to Beijing. It's just a straightforward reading of the Basic Law that only members of the nominating committee can nominate candidates for the chief executive election. Or it would have been straightforward if the issue has not been so clouded by Tai, Eu and their supporters.
Eu and the student activists know perfectly well Beijing would never allow for public nomination, whether it was in the Basic Law or not. But they hope they could browbeat more moderate democrats into supporting it so it could be used to corner Beijing and its allies in Hong Kong. In the event, it's the pan-democratic camp that first cracks and blinks.
The arguments offered by the Bar Association are evenhanded and ideologically neutral. In fact, it comes down as hard on the mainland-Hong Kong government side as much as it is against public nomination and nomination by political parties. Rightly, it points out that "love our country, love Hong Kong", as a criterion for selecting chief executive hopefuls, makes little sense in law.
I believe if the pan-democrats drop public nomination, Beijing should give up on patriotism as a nominating criterion. Any patriotism standard must be arbitrary and only serves to delegitimise the election process. The association also argues against any high nomination threshold or restriction on "political plurality", i.e., banning "politically incorrect" candidates. In doing so, it has also stuck a blow against the pro-Beijing crowds.