A prominent American scholar in politics has dismissed as "an insult to the intelligence of the Hong Kong public" the political reform package Beijing has tailored for the city. Professor Larry Diamond, citing the election systems in Iran and pre-US-invasion Iraq, said universal suffrage without "real choice" was meaningless. Diamond is a political sociologist specialising in democracy studies. He is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and directs the Centre on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at Stanford University in California. He is also known in the city as a thesis adviser to Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, a pro-establishment Hong Kong lawmaker and former security minister, during her studies at the US university in the mid-2000s. The professor, speaking from the United States via Skype, was addressing a seminar on Hong Kong's political reform at City University yesterday. "People who want a free society and who really believe in democracy should stand up, not only for their rights but also for their dignity," Diamond said. "I just think the [political reform] proposal is frankly an insult not only to democratic aspirations but to the intelligence of the Hong Kong public to suggest that this is one type of democratic alternative. "This is like saying [Iran] is another type of democratic alternative. No one would interpret … that merely universal suffrage would be enough. "There is universal suffrage in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Everybody could vote. They just had effectively only one choice. And there was no freedom of choice." He also likened Hong Kong's proposed system to Iran, where a Council of Guardians ensures only candidates the supreme leader would accept get to run for president. "And the people of Iran are only offered extremely limited choice … There is a supreme leader in Hong Kong and it is not the chief executive. It is [President] Xi Jinping ." Earlier, Basic Law Committee member and University of Hong Kong legal scholar Professor Albert Chen Hung-yee argued even the Iranian election system could produce a liberal-minded president who would push for reforms, citing Hassan Rouhani. Another speaker, former legislator and Civic Party member Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee, also argued against accepting the government's package. "Accepting the political reform first would mean we have chosen to go in the opposite direction of achieving democracy," Ng said. "It means we have legitimised Beijing's way of controlling us. "We might get minute gains for accepting it first, but the price we are going to pay is so huge that we should not take that option."