Civil disobedience is justified only when there is immense injustice "particularly threatening lives", one of the city's Christian leaders said yesterday.
Reverend Peter Koon Ho-ming, provincial secretary general of the Sheng Kung Hui, the Anglican Church, said he opposed Occupy Central's plan to blockade Central district this summer to push for universal suffrage, as there was still "room for discussion".
"The conditions justifying a civil disobedience movement are arguable.
"There should be an immense injustice, particularly threatening lives," said Koon in an interview on RTHK yesterday.
"Universal suffrage is about procedures. Let's do it [secure one man, one vote] first as there is room for further discussion."
One of Occupy Central's core members is Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, a Baptist minister and veteran activist.
Koon said Chu should not lead such a movement. "We have to be clear about the role of religious officers," he said.
"Many religious leaders do not want to see Occupy Central happen. There are many ways to push for universal suffrage. Occupy Central is of a threatening nature."
Koon said many religious leaders shared his views, but added that his opposition to Occupy Central was a "personal view that does not represent Sheng Kung Hui or the religious sector".
He cited the protests against apartheid in South Africa in the late 1980s as a case in which civil disobedience was legitimate.
"The fight for democracy was a different case from apartheid, which divided people into two classes," he said.
However, speaking in a pre-recorded interview on the same programme, Cardinal Joseph Zen Zi-kiun said Occupy Central was "an option" if other approaches failed to lead to democracy. "I don't want somebody coming out saying there is a consensus against Occupy Central. The consensus is on the fight for democracy and conversation," said Zen. "We have to fight for a democratic target through conversation. But when there is no way out, Occupy Central is an option."
The city's Catholic diocese has given qualified support to acts of civil disobedience, saying in some cases people may be justified in breaking the law if their demands were repeatedly ignored.