• jeremiahbull

Shaping a Referendum for Hong Kong

Updated: Jan 10, 2021


Please read our other referendum blogs:


Petition "Referendum Solution for Hong Kong"


A UN mandated Referendum in Hong Kong is needed


It's time for a referendum! 全民公投的時候了

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

The collective will of the people is logical, reasonable and fair! The will of the people has been agreed!


It is the Articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) that accord every person the right to take part in the government of their country, directly or through freely chosen representatives. Additionally it is the will of the people that is the basis of the authority of government, and this has to be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage, held by secrete vote or by equivalent free voting procedures. It's Article 23, in particular, that spells out where any government gets its mandate (see our blog on the illegitimacy of the current Hong Kong government).


Other than in elections, many nations and democratic institutions gauge the will of the people through some other form of ballot or referendum. Wethepeopleofhk (WTPOHK) have for some time insisted that a referendum can provide for HK a political solution to the ongoing tensions between the rival factions that have given rise to the civil unrest in the SAR over the last 12 months (see our blog for further explanation).

除了選舉之外,許多國家和民主機構通過其他形式的投票或全民投票來衡量人民的意願。在一段時間裏,Wethepeopleofhk (WTPOHK) 一直堅持全民公決可以為香港提供政治解決辦法,解決過去12個月導致特區內亂的敵對派系之間的持續緊張關係 (見我們的博客,進一步解釋)

Peter Emerson is a founder member and director of the de Borda Institute, an international NGO which promotes preferential decision-making, especially in conflict zones. The NGO has been instrumental in settling conflicts in a number of places, through its conviction that MAJORITY RULE DOES NOT EQUAL DEMOCRACY.

Peter Emerson 是de Borda Institute的創始成員和主任,該研究所是一個國際非政府組織,以促進優先決策,特別是在衝突地區。該非政府組織通過堅信 “多數規則” 不等於民主,在一些地方解決衝突方面發揮了重要作用。

Writing in January 2020, Emerson said that binary voting systems are divisive in societies where they are used. In a place like HK rather than emphasise the differences between 'blue' and 'yellow', pro-Beijing and pro-democracy factions, we need to find common ground. He suggested that rather than asking voters to choose yes or no, one thing or another, one person or party over another, it is better to ask people to express their preferences from a range of options.


"Multi-option voting allows all options to be on the table, as is often said in peace negotiations, and 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."


In a Ted Talk he presented in Vienna in 2017 (link below), Emerson said that too many people assume that decision-making based on a "majority wins" represents democracy in action. He illustrated that a much more accurate representation of the will of the people comes from a preferential system of voting that presents a number of options rather than just one or two.

Emerson在2017年在維也納發表Ted Talk(下圖)時說,太多的人認為基於“多數勝利”的決策在行動上代表了民主。他演示了一種優惠的投票制度為更準確地表達人民意願。這種制度提出了若干選擇,而不僅僅是一兩種選擇。

The preferential voting system suggested by Peter Emerson is referred to as The Modified Borda Count (MBC). The tables below give a simplified illustration of how the MBC works.

Peter Emerson建議的優惠投票系統稱為改良博爾達計數 (MBC)。下表簡單說明瞭 MBC 的工作原理。

Table One 表一

Given THREE choices Ale (A), Beer (B), or Cider (C), nine voters rank their choice of drink from 1st preference to 3rd preference.


You can see above that 4 voters chose Ale as 1st preference, 7 voters chose Cider as their 2nd preference, and just 5 voters chose Ale as their 3rd preference.


Table Two 表二

A points system is used to calculate the outcome of the referendum.


As there were three options to choose from each vote for the 1st preference earns 3 points, the 2nd preference earns two points for each vote, and the 3rd preference earns 1 point for each vote. The points are tallied up and in this case Cider (the third choice on the ballot) wins.

由於從每票中選擇三個選項,第一個首選項可得得 3 分,因此第二個首選項每票可得得 2 分,而第 3 個首選項每票可得 1 分。積分被計算,在這種情況下,蘋果酒(選票上的第三個選擇)獲勝。

The Modified Borda Count (MBC) is a preference voting procedure which identifies that option which gains the highest average preference score. This is why Cider would be declared the winner in the above model.

改良博爾達計數 (MBC) 是一個首選項投票過程,它標識了獲得最高平均首選項分數的選項。這就是為什麼蘋果酒會被宣佈為上述模型中的贏家。

Other political systems that operate on 'majority wins' decision making would argue that :


a) Ale is the winner because it had the highest number of people rank it as first preference....BUT that would satisfy only four out of the nine voters in this model - less than half!

a) 麥酒是贏家,因為它擁有最多的人將其列為第一偏好。但是,這種模式只有的九分之四的選民能滿足這一點 - 不到一半!

b) In a two round voting system when there is no clear winner scoring 50percent of 1st preference votes, the lowest scoring option is eliminated and a second vote is held. Thus Beer would potentially garner the overall points majority and be the winner...BUT this would still make a fair proportion of voters unhappy because their 1st preference missed out.

b) 在兩輪投票系統中,當沒有明確的獲勝者獲得第一優先票數的50%時,最低評分選項將被取消,並舉行第二次投票。因此,啤酒可能會獲得總分多數,並獲勝...但這仍然會讓相當比例的選民不高興,因為他們的第一選擇錯過了。

Emerson has pointed out a number of advantages with use of the MBC preferential voting system as spelt out in his TedTalk. The aim is to bolster inclusive democracy and bring more stability to political processes, government and society at large.




In a future HK referendum vote, participants could be asked to express their preferences on four or five options listed, giving a 1st preference to their most preferred option, a 2nd preference to their next favourite, a 3rd preference to their third choice, and so on, as they wish. In the count, more points are awarded to the 1st preference, the lowest number of points is awarded to the last preference.


The MBC thus encourages everyone to express, not only their favourite option, but also those options on which they are prepared to compromise. And when every voter expresses his/her compromise position, it is possible to find the common consensus or the collective best compromise, i.e., the option with the most points or the highest average preference.


If a voter submits only a 1st preference, his favourite option gets 1 point. If another submits a 1st and a 2nd preference, her favourite gets 2 points, and her second choice gets 1. So best of all (in, say, a five-option referendum) to submit all five preferences, so that the voter's favourite gets 5 points, his/her 2nd choice gets 4 points, their 3rd preference gets 3, and so on.

如果選民只提交第一個偏好,他最喜歡的選項將獲得1分。如果另一個選民提交第一和第二優先,她最喜歡的得到2分,她的第二個選擇得到1分。因此,最重要的是 (在五個選項的公民投票) 提交所有5個偏好,使選民的最愛得到5分,他/她的第二選擇得到4分,他們的第三個偏好得到3,等等。

It ought to be noted that such a referendum could potentially arise after the September 2020 Legislative Council Election in Hong Kong (see our blog).


In a future blog we will propose some draft ideas for things that might be the subject of a referendum, of great political interest and relevance to the people of HK.


Jeremiah B.

For more insight, please watch Peter Emerson's Ted Talk video:

有關更多見解,請觀看Peter Emerson的 Ted Talk 視頻:

NOTE: Peter Emerson, (left and above) founder member and director of the de Borda Institute, lives in Belfast and has worked extensively in the Balkans and Caucasus as well. His first visit to mainland China was in 2014, where he has frequently lectured on inclusive voting procedures. Based on a one-year journey from Belfast to Beijing and beyond, his most recent work is Majority Voting as a Catalyst of Populism.

注:Peter Emerson,(左方及上方) de Borda Institute 的創始人和主任,住在貝爾法斯特,在巴爾幹和高加索地區也曾廣泛工作。他第一次訪問中國大陸是在2014年,在那裡他經常講到包容性投票程式。基於從貝爾法斯特到北京的一年旅程及後來,他最近的工作是作為民粹主義的催化劑的多數票投票

Further reading:


Zhang Xuezhong's open letter on China's Constitution


FRAUD: CCP thwarted Hong Kong peoples' UN rights to self-determination & independence


China security versus Hong Kong security


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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