HONGKONG legislators last night backed away from a referendum on the Governor's controversial reforms, thereby avoiding further confrontation with China as negotiations resume in Beijing on how the 1995 elections will be held. Only hours before Chinese and British teams sit down for talks that take in future constitutional development and the role of legislators beyond 1997, the Legislative Council voted 29-18 against the liberal-sponsored call for a referendum. Opponents insisted that much hard work had been done to secure new talks and demands that the Governor's blueprint be put to the people might aggravate the discord and disrupt negotiations. After about three hours of debate, United Democrat Mr Szeto Wah garnered only 18 legislators in support of his motion. Among the 29 no-votes were the three Government officials. Mr Pang Chun-hoi and Mr Frederick Fung Kin-kee abstained. Mr Szeto's supporters claimed it was important to gauge community views, and that these should be made clear to the negotiators deciding the territory's future. The Acting Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Leung Chin-man, said the Government did not believe a referendum was an appropriate vehicle to take matters forward. He said that for results of such an opinion poll to be credible, a large-scale exercise would be required, with legislative or administrative procedures such as an extensive voter registration exercise to make sure as many people as possible participated. Mr Leung said the legislative programme for the bill giving effect to the reforms for the 1994/95 elections was already extremely tight. He noted, however, the suggestion that the Government should not be deterred by technical hurdles. Any further slippage would mean there might not be time for the practical arrangements of the elections to be put in place, he said. Another problem involving a referendum was that the more complicated the question, the more confusing would be the interpretation of the result. However, to try to reduce the question to a simple one would, he said, do ''great injustice'' to this immensely important subject. Mr Leung also questioned the necessity of holding a referendum given the large number of public opinion polls already done. He said the Government was fully aware of the community's views. Mr Szeto said this was an historic moment and his motion was historic. ''Why did I say historic? It is because the British and Chinese sides will resume talks. Hongkong people don't want to be betrayed, therefore we need a referendum,'' he said. An attempt by the Liberal Party's Mr Allen Lee Peng-fei to adjourn the debate was voted down by eight votes, 16-28 and four abstentions. Mr Lee defended his move by saying that as talks were resuming, the public had a lot of expectation and Mr Szeto's motion was untimely. ''Therefore, at this point in time, we should exercise restraint. We should not be posturing. Otherwise, it would only pour oil on the fire, making the already complicated talks even more complex,'' he said. Mr Szeto said Hongkong people's expectation was not on the re-opening of talks, but rather what results would be achieved after the negotiations. ''We are not posturing in proposing the motion,'' he said. Mr Allen Lee attempt to block the debate seemed to suggest that the Liberal Party thought a motion debate would hinder the talks, he said. ''This is tantamount to saying that the Chinese and British negotiators don't need to take heed of the opinion of Hongkong people. This is just helping people to hog-tie Hongkong citizens.''