There is no international standard of democracy as different countries function in countless ways, a former president of the UN General Assembly says.
The remarks by Vuk Jeremic contradict calls from Hong Kong's pan-democrats to introduce an election model that complies with "international standards of universal suffrage" as reflected in the UN's International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Citizens should enjoy equal rights to vote and to stand in elections, the covenant states.
Jeremic, a former Serbian minister of foreign affairs, was in town in the middle of a 10-day city-wide ballot on electoral reform conducted by the Occupy Central campaign.
One of the poll questions is whether the legislature should veto reform proposals that do not comply with international standards.
"There are different countries with different systems and different ways in which [the people] are exercising their political wills. So I think it would be wrong to measure one against the other, to judge this system is better or that system is better," Jeremic said at a seminar held yesterday by the China Energy Fund Committee.
The local think tank's deputy chairman is former home affairs secretary Dr Patrick Ho Chi-ping.
"There may be an international standard in science and technology, but when it comes to society, it is very difficult."
The Occupy movement has vowed to mobilise 10,000 people to block the main roads in Central if the government fails to offer a satisfactory reform plan for universal suffrage in the election of the chief executive in 2017.
Jeremic said a civil-disobedience campaign was not necessarily socially unacceptable or a crime, but he urged caution as it involved "shaking up and changing institutions that provide stability and law".
Occupy organiser Dr Chan Kin-man, a Chinese University sociologist, begged to differ.
"Different countries may have different political systems, but that does not mean they do not share a set of similar principles."
He noted that international scholars who took part in the University of Hong Kong's reform roundtable in March had agreed common principles for universal suffrage existed, such as offering genuine choices to voters and not setting unreasonable hurdles for hopefuls.
This afternoon, pan-democrats will stage a "silent stand" for an hour in front of the HSBC headquarters in Central to drum up support for the ongoing unofficial referendum.
Yesterday, on the sixth day of the poll, only hundreds of people voted per hour, compared with the tens of thousands who voted every hour on the first day, Friday. Chan said the slowdown in voting was normal.