Background Information of the Research Team on the Study of ReferendumsBack

(As of 11 January 2005)
1. Preamble
1.1. The purpose of this document is to document the establishment and subsequent operation of the independent "Research Team on the Study of Referendums" or "全民投票研究組" in Chinese, hereinafter referred to as "The Research Team".
1.2. Technically, the Research Team requires neither blessing nor endorsement from any person or organization. In reality, however, members of the Research Team would like to make the Research Team as transparent as possible to all walks of life.
2. Objectives
2.1. The objectives of the Research Team are
  1. to study and document the development and operation of referendums around the world, and
  2. to study the feasibility of introducing referendums to Hong Kong, whether official or civil, district or territory-wide.
2.2. The Research Team operates independently, and all team members serve entirely in their personal capacity. They do not represent any organization, including the universities they are working in. They may or may not share a common stand on specific issues related to the introduction of referendums to Hong Kong. The only material fact is that all of them are committed to conduct the study objectively and scientifically.
2.3. The Research Team is due to complete the study by early 2005, and then publishes the findings by means of a paper and on-line report. The title of the report will be "Referendums Around the World and Lessons for Hong Kong".
3. Composition
3.1. The Research Team comprises independent academics working on a voluntary and unpaid basis. As of 11 January 2005, the Team comprises Drs Robert CHUNG Ting-yiu, Kenneth CHAN Ka-lok, Wilson WONG Wai-ho, and CHAN Kin-man, listed in order of their joining the Research Team.
3.2. Membership of the Research Team grows by snowballing, after the first two members self-appointed themselves into the Research Team. A new member would be admitted into the Research Team when the majority of incumbent members agreed to his/her admission. An incumbent member can withdraw from the Research Team at any time he/she wishes. In order to be efficient, the number of Research Team members is not expected to exceed 8 persons at any time.
3.3. The Research Team may appoint officials, spokespersons, support staff members and research assistants as the majority of members see fit, in order to facilitate and accomplish the study.
3.4. The Research Team may also appoint as the majority of members see fit any number of Honourary Advisors to comment on the Research Team's operation and the methodology of the study.
4. The Study
4.1. The study would comprise the following aspects:
  1. historical development of referendums all over the world;
  2. different forms, categories, nomenclature of referendums as of today;
  3. theoretical discussions of direct democracy and referendums;
  4. legal considerations for the introduction of referendums to Hong Kong;
  5. practical considerations for the introduction of referendums to Hong Kong;
  6. suggestions for introducing formal and civil referendums to Hong Kong;
  7. criteria for appraising the success of civil referendums in Hong Kong.
4.2. The study would generate the following output:
  1. a comprehensive bibliography of on-line and other form of references;
  2. an online resource centre for policy references and future studies;
  3. information sheets for public education purpose.
5. Activity Record
5.1. On 11 November 2004, the first two members of the Research Team, Robert CHUNG and Kenneth CHAN, attend a meeting convened by Legislative Councillors Emily LAU and CHEUNG Chiu-hung on the feasibility of introducing referendums to Hong Kong. After that meeting, CHUNG and CHAN discussed the possibility of conducting an academic study on the feasibility of introducing referendums in Hong Kong.
5.2. On 23 November 2004, CHUNG and CHAN attended another meeting convened by LAU, and presented a proposal to establish the Research Team, jointly written by CHUNG and CHAN earlier that day. Technically, the establishment of the Research Team requires no endorsement from any person or organization, and CHUNG and CHAN volunteered to form the Research Team on the same day.
5.3. When the Research Team was established, it was estimated that a budget of about $50k would be required to cover the expenditures to be incurred in the hiring of assistants to do the searching, writing, editing, translating, printing work, and so on. The Research Team started to solicit donation and sponsorship, in cash or in kind, from friends and organizations who support the study.
5.4. By 29 November 2004, about $38k have been raised, but only $3k have actually been received. Miss Cyd HO was the main person involved in soliciting donations. The Public Opinion Programme (POP) at the University of Hong Kong has agreed to keep the account, on the assumption that the account would be open to public scrutiny.
5.5. Also on 29 November 2004, a webpage was opened within the website of POP to facilitate the collection of public opinion, the advertising of Research Team activities, the archiving of reference material, and the publication of research reports. The copyright of all information published therewith is expected to be open to the world.
5.6. The Research Team met on 6 December 2004 to further discuss the research plan. The Team agreed to hire Mr LAI Wing-yiu as the Team's Project Manager. In the evening of 6 December 2004, CHUNG and LAI attended a meeting in the Office of District Councillor Cyd HO to brief Kwun Lung residents on the basic concepts of referendums and practical considerations in carrying out civil referendums at district-level.
5.7. On 9 December 2004, CHAN and LAI attended a meeting convened by legislators LAU and CHEUNG in relation to civil referendums. CHAN and LAI undertook to participate in a working group responsible for drafting rules regulating the conduct of civil referendums, if any was to be carried out in the near future. On the same day, Ms Ivy CHAN Siu-ping was recruited as an assistant to the Team.
5.8. On 16 December 2004, CHAN received $6k from an anonymous donor through HO and, the cheque was later passed to CHUNG for depositing into the account.
5.9. On 20 December 2004, CHAN and LAI attended a meeting convened by legislators LAU and CHEUNG. During the meeting, it was agreed that a "Referendum Week" jointly organised by NGOs, legislators and political parties would be held from 10 to 16 January 2005 to promote public understanding of referendums.
5.10. On 22 December 2004, the Research Team met to discuss in greater details various areas covered by the research, in particular on the creation of a checklist to ensure a credible and transparent referendum, whether official or civil. LAI would be in charge of organising and monitoring progress of the research. With reference to the time schedule in the "Referendum Week", the Team planned to hold a press conference on either 6 or 7 January 2005 to publicize findings of the research. The Team's decision was relayed to groups and individuals participating in the "Referendum Week".
5.11. On 3 January 2005, LAI attended a meeting convened by legislators LAU and CHEUNG in relation to civil referendums, and briefed participants on the research progress. The Research Team was informed that due to resources and manpower being used to organise South Asian Tsunami Relief programmes, the "Referendum Week" would be deferred to 20 February 2005. Team members subsequently agreed via email to defer the release of the research report until mid-February.
5.12. On 5 January 2005, the Research Team held another meeting to review and discuss the draft report prepared by Team members and assistants. At that meeting, the Team agreed to defer the press conference to 15 February 2005, and to include the documentation of the 1993 People's Referendum Project organised by the University of Hong Kong in the research report. CHUNG, assisted by Ms Ester CHOW Wai-yee, would be responsible for the documentation.
5.13. In the evening of 5 January 2005, CHAN attended a Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor monthly meeting to introduce to Monitor's members different forms, categories, and nomenclature of referendums, and the pros and cons of referendums according to worldwide experience.
5.14. On 6 January 2005, Ivy CHAN attended a Civil Human Rights Front meeting to report on the progress of Team's work and its plan to delay the press conference until 15 February. An anonymous donor contributed $5k to the Team.
5.15. On 11 January 2005, the Team released a column article in Hong Kong Economic Journal and the HKU POP Site to report the progress of the study, and to advertise the Team's website within POP.
Compiled by LAI Wing-yiu on behalf of the Research Team on 11 January 2005