• jeremiahbull

It's time for a referendum! 全民公投的時候了!

Updated: Jan 10, 2021

The issues go deeper than our choice of flag

Please read our other referendum blogs:


A UN mandated Referendum in Hong Kong is needed


Petition "Referendum Solution for Hong Kong"


Shaping a Referendum for Hong Kong


Democracy – the most undefined word in the world!

In the face of CCP - ballots not bullets!

American 'Ranked Choice Voting' versus 'Modified Borda Count' MBC

Some people believe that Hong Kong's social movement is in uncharted territory, since the protests have now been going on for months, and as yet there seems no end in sight. While initially there was no obvious political solution on offer, this writer believes there is a viable way forward.


While I confess I am not a historian or political scientist, we ought to look at the case of Scotland. Once a kingdom, and a nation in its own right, Scotland was invaded by Vikings in the 8th century A.D. Through royal marriage and a number of other conquests the nation eventually became a sovereign state allied with England. Then in 1707 the two states were united to become The United Kingdom of Great Britain


There have been many different factors that have impacted Scotland's fortunes over time. In fairly recent history the country has experienced something of an economic and cultural renaissance. This has been mainly due to growth in the financial services sector and the proceeds from North Sea oil and gas. These in turn sparked an increase in nationalistic fervour and some serious debates on Scottish independence that ultimately led to a referendum in 2014 about leaving the British Union.


A referendum (in some countries synonymous with plebiscite, or a vote on a ballot question) is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is asked to either accept or reject a particular proposal. In the Scottish referendum of 1992, the Scottish National Party SNP campaigned for a three-option referendum. London wanted ‘devolution’ or the old ‘status quo’, while the SNP wanted ‘independence’ as well. But London said ‘no’, the 1997 referendum was binary, and the outcome, massive support for devolution. So Scotland had a new status quo. In 2013, the debate was again multi-optional: the 'new status quo', 'more devolution' or ‘independence'. But London, thinking independence would lose, wanted another binary vote: the ‘new status quo’ or ‘independence’. In the campaign itself, however, the SNP was doing rather well. London panicked. The ballot papers had already been printed, postal voting had already started, but London said the 'new status quo’ means ‘more devolution’. The result of the vote, therefore, was almost meaningless.


There was an overall turnout of 85 percent of eligible voters who participated in the referendum. 44.7 percent of voters answered "Yes" and 55.3 percent answered "No". Scotland has therefore remained a part of Great Britain, seeking the stability and strength that comes from maintaining close relationships with England. Instead of independence, Scotland opted to form its own autonomous parliament. Scotland wants another referendum (but now the SNP supports only a binary poll - politicians often argue in favour of only their vested interests) but London won’t allow them; not yet anyway.

參加全民投票的合格選民總投票率為85%。44.7%的選民回答“是”,55.3%的人回答“否”。因此,蘇格蘭一直是大不列顛的一部分,尋求與英格蘭保持密切關係所帶來的穩定和力量。蘇格蘭選擇組建自己的自治議會,而不是獨立。蘇格蘭希望再次舉行全民公決(但現在蘇格蘭國民黨只支援二選一投票 - 政治家們往往只主張自己的既得利益),但倫敦不允許他們這樣做;至少現在不會。

The Scottish Parliament is a devolved arm of the U.K. government. It has a range of responsibilities that include: the economy, education, health, justice, rural affairs, housing, environment, equal opportunities, consumer advocacy and advice, transport and taxation. This enables Scotland to exercise fiscal autonomy. In simple language this means it has full control over how and where its tax income is spent. Scottish people enjoy self-determination, while remaining a part of the UK. Some powers are reserved to the UK Government. These include: immigration, the constitution, foreign policy and defence. Even though England has recently voted in a referendum to leave the European Union, Scotland intends to stay a part of that economic block.


If your mind thinks like mine, you might be thinking that the Scottish arrangement is a bit like "One country, Two Systems." If Scotland can find a way forward politically through a referendum, then it should also be possible for Hong Kong to do something similar. 


There are many good reasons for the SAR to remain a part of China, and despite the echoes of voices claiming the umbrella movement and the current social unrest are about seeking independence, there remains a high percentage of Hong Kongers who embrace some form of union with mainland China. In fact a number of Hong Kong's Democracy advocates, including Joshua Wong, have stated unequivocally that they DO NOT seek independence from China. China need not feel so threatened by events in Hong Kong. In the current climate one could make an innocuous call for Morris Dancing in the streets and Beijing would somehow interpret that as a pitch for independence.


What's important for Hong Kong people is that they are unquestionably given the same right to self-determination that the Scottish people enjoy. This would mean that the government in Beijing take a more of a hands-off approach to the SAR, respecting the will of its citizens to self-govern and self-manage most of its affairs.


While carrying out a referendum might not be considered part of the conventional "democracy with Chinese characteristics", there is no doubt that many democracies around the world use referenda (plural) as a tool of good governance and some even have multi-option referendums. Whereas in the past people entrusted their governments to take care of things on their behalf, now the people want greater involvement. This exercise of people's reasoning and conscience falls naturally within the auspices of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, particularly Articles 20 and 21.


Globally dozens of countries use properly organised referenda to decide issues as wide ranging as alcohol laws, electoral change, and constitutional reform.


We suggest that best practices are used such as an inclusive referendum method including for example one that promotes preferential decision-making - please see our blog Shaping a Referendum for Hong Kong. Peter Emerson is a founder member and director of the de Borda Institute. Peter Emerson wrote "multi-option voting allows all options to be on the table, as is often used in peace negotiations, with a (short) list of options on the ballot paper. In debate, it would then be possible to identify the option which has the highest average preference; and an average, of course, involves everyone who votes, not just a majority of them."

我們建議採用最佳做法,例如採用包容性的全民投票方法,例如促進優先決策的方法 - 請參閱我們的博客“為香港制定全民投票”Peter Emerson是de Borda Institute的創始成員和主任。Peter Emerson寫道: “多選則投票允許所有選項都擺在桌面上,就像和平談判中經常使用的那樣,選票上有一個(短)的選擇清單。在辯論中,可以確定平均偏好最高的備選辦法;當然,平均涉及所有投票的人,而不僅僅是他們中的大多數。”

Peter Emerson wrote "Asia sets a fine example in this regard, and one of the best ever was in Guam in 1982; there were six options to choose from, and a further seventh slot was left blank, so others could (campaign and) vote for a different option.  Another very good multi-option referendum was in New Zealand, where they had five options, and NZ actually had the world’s first multi-option referendum, in 1894; while the world’s first multi-option vote, we believe, was in China, in 1197.  In a nutshell, the West has much to learn from the East, and maybe the world’s best electoral system is in Nauru!"

Peter Emerson寫道: “亞洲在這方面樹立了一個很好的例子,1982年在關島樹立了最好的案例之一;有六個選項可供選擇,另外第七個選項留空,所以其他人可以 (競選和) 投票選擇不同的選項。 另一個非常好的多選案文全民投票是在紐西蘭,他們有五種選擇,紐西蘭實際上在1894年進行了世界上第一次多選案文全民投票;我們認為,世界上第一次多選投票是在1197年在中國。 簡而言之,西方從東方學到很多東西,也許世界上最好的選舉制度是在瑙魯!”

Some referendums are initiated by citizens, while many are planned by governments who seek public engagement and wish to gauge actual public sentiment on an issue. A properly conducted referendum gives government a clear mandate or justification for its action. In 2016, for example, New Zealand held a referendum on its national flag. Despite criticism that the New Zealand flag is often confused with the Australian one, the citizens there rejected the new designs on offer and chose to keep its current ensign.


It's notable that the 2017 Catalonia independence referendum was declared a breach of the Spanish constitution. Unfortunately, neither the Catalans in Barcelona nor the Spanish in Madrid remember that the first person to advocate preferential voting, and this was over 800 years ago, was a Spanish Catalan called Ramón Llull. The legal situation there is very different to the one in HK. Here, in the Hong Kong context, the value of a referendum is that with both the British and Chinese government accepting its outcome, it could be used to effectively nullify or cancel the breach of the 1984 Joint Declaration. It would also be able to diffuse the current impasse and chart the way forward for Hong Kong beyond 2047.

值得注意的是,2017 年加泰羅尼亞獨立公投被宣佈為違反西班牙憲法的行為。不幸的是,巴塞羅那的加泰羅尼亞人和馬德里的西班牙人都不記得第一個主張優先投票的人,這是800多年前,是一個叫Ramón Llull的西班牙人。那裡的法律情況與香港的法律情況大相徑庭。在香港方面,全民投票的價值是,中英兩國政府均接受公投結果,可以有效地廢除或取消違反一九八四年聯合聲明的行為。它亦能打破目前的僵局,為香港在2047年以後的前進方向指明方向。

We, the people of Hong Kong, demand a say in our own political future. Let's have a referendum!


Jeremiah B.

The Scottish referendum can serve as a model for Hong Kong

It seems the HK authorities don't like referendums very much!

Authorities condemn HK 'referendum' as 'invalid and illegal', Global Times, 3 July 2014

‘Cut black hands’: Beijing blasts Hong Kong pro-democracy group over class boycott referendum, HKFP, 12 June 2020

Note: So far WTPOHK has pinned our referendum blogs at the top of our website - we have now decided to unpin these blogs. In recognition of the referendums that have already taken place (the latest being the pro-democrats LegCo primaries) we have decided to date them on 11 July 2020 (the first day of the primaries).

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