A pan-democratic legal heavyweight has offered the government a choice: either guarantee that there will be no screening of chief executive candidates for the 2017 election, or allow the public to nominate contestants for the poll.
But former legal sector lawmaker Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee, of the Civic Party, told the Post that genuine universal suffrage should not involve any screening of candidates, saying screening would be accepted "over my dead body".
Ng also urged legislators to advise Beijing on what Hongkongers really want with regards to political reform instead of making concessions prematurely by trying to guess what Beijing might deem acceptable.
Public nomination is at the centre of the reform debate among pan-democrats, with some saying the idea is indispensable. But Ng said that ensuring candidates are not screened is more "fundamental".
"I don't see anything wrong with civic nomination, but if we don't have any political screening and have a reasonably open nomination process with no restrictions, then whether or not we have civic nomination is not going to [be an important] point," Ng said.
"You either promise us there's no screening or you accept civic nomination. Of the two, no screening is the more fundamental principle."
The number of contestants should not be limited, she said, and the identities of those candidates should not be decided - or vetted - by the collective decision of the nominating committee.
Ng urged pan-democrats not to equate public nomination with universal suffrage, and rather to draw a line at screening of candidates.
"This might be your dream dress, but it doesn't mean that if you don't get it you don't take anything else. But if there is screening, sorry, it would be accepted over my dead body."
Ng refused to back a plan proposed by her fellow Civic Party member Ronny Tong Ka-wah, which focused on increasing the representativeness of the nominating committee and ignored the concept of public nomination.
"Ronny's proposal doesn't go against my principles, in the sense that he is not proposing any screening," she said. "But I don't see why I should back his proposal either, because it's not all that I wish for."
Although she didn't reject Tong's proposal, Ng said it placed too much emphasis on trying to read Beijing's mind over Hongkongers' wishes.
Political leaders should advise Beijing on what Hongkongers want and what is good for the city, she said, instead of guessing what Beijing wants or can accept.
"[Tong's proposal] really aims at being acceptable to the central government, and I don't think it is a workable idea."
Ng said rumours that the Civic Party had secretly accepted Tong's plan were neither true nor relevant to the debate.
"At the end of the day there are only two decision makers - people in Hong Kong and the central authority," the barrister, who spent 16 years in the legislature, added.
Regarding the Court of Final Appeal's recent judgment that dismissed the seven-year residency requirement for social security, Ng said Hongkongers had overlooked that it was unreasonable government policies that led to the ruling.
The government would not have lost the case if its welfare policy was based on a reasonable foundation, she said.