The government will "abuse the concept of the rule of law" if it rejects the notion of voters nominating chief executive candidates without offering alternatives that ensure the greatest possible public participation, the Bar Association said yesterday.
The Bar - which earlier said public nomination was incompatible with the Basic Law - also criticised as unfair the government's selective use of its views on political reform.
The United States, meanwhile, has voiced support for the 2017 chief executive election - the first under universal suffrage - to be run by a method "judged credible" by the people.
The statements came ahead of the scheduled release on Tuesday of the government's first report on electoral reform and followed Occupy Central's unofficial referendum in which 720,000 people backed proposals calling for public nomination.
"It would be irresponsible for the government to simply reject [public nomination out of hand], or to recommend that the central authorities disapprove or exclude that proposal on the ground of non-compliance with the Basic Law - and then do no more about the proposal," the association said.
In its submission in April, the Bar said public nomination - consistently rejected by Beijing - was incompatible with the Basic Law, which states that only a nominating committee can put forward candidates. But it also described Beijing's idea that candidates must be patriots who "love the country and love Hong Kong" as highly questionable.
Yesterday it said officials had been unfairly citing only the part on public nomination.
The Bar did not specify options when it said the government should consider "alternatives" to public nomination. It referred to suggestions made in April, including the abolition of corporate voting in elections to form the nominating committee.
It also said the committee need not "copy" the structure of the election committee previously formed to elect the current chief executive, which is often criticised as unrepresentative.
Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung said the upcoming report would not quote any submission out of context as all would be appended in full.
Civic Party leader and barrister Alan Leong Kah-kit said the Bar's statement was timely. He said it was prompted by actions on the part of the government that bordered on intellectual dishonesty.
The Hong Kong election was among topics discussed at a meeting between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Chinese officials in Beijing this week.
"We are not taking positions about what particular [electoral] formula is right," a US State Department official said in Beijing on Wednesday.
"But we certainly believe that an approach that is judged credible by the people of Hong Kong will extend credibility to the person who is ultimately selected as the chief executive and contribute to the long-term stability and prosperity of Hong Kong."
Separately, former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang and Democratic Party founder Martin Lee Chu-ming set off for London today. Chan will speak to the Chatham House policy institute about political reform.