Crowds overwhelm those tasked with the headcount

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 July, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 July, 2003, 12:00am

Counting the number of protesters was a near impossible task for police, organisers and academics.

The academic team of researchers who took the Security Bureau to task in May by conducting their own analysis of submissions made during consultations on the national security laws tried to conduct an independent count of its own.

The group, including statisticians and sociologists, said it would use a scientific method to count the number of people to counter conflicting claims from the police and organisers.

They selected two flyovers, one at Percival Street in Causeway Bay and another at O'Brien Road in Wan Chai, and filmed one minute of footage every 15 minutes. The footage was then replayed in slow motion and the number of people counted.

The academics had initially promised an accurate estimate by 5.30pm, but were caught off-guard by the unexpected crowds.

'We are trying to do this in the most scientific way possible, but there are people coming from all directions - we are having such a hard time counting,' said Ma Ngok of the University of Science and Technology. At 5pm the group estimated the number of protesters at about 200,000, but warned this was not a comprehensive figure as many demonstrators were scattered into side streets and thousands did not make it that far or joined the march later.

The group later said it had been overwhelmed by the task and could not provide an accurate figure last night. The team would work overnight and hoped to issue a figure today.

Another group, the Local Bright Young Things, said 345,000 people joined the march. The group counted the crowd passing through the interval between Percival Street and Hennessy Road.

The police counted the number of people on the streets and leaving Victoria Park, which organisers say was only the tip of the iceberg. Their estimate was more than 350,000 at 6pm.

Chief Superintendent Tang How-kong, head of the Police Public Relations Branch, admitted the figure did not represent the total turnout.

Meanwhile, the organisers of the march, the Civil Human Rights Front, had volunteers stationed at intervals between Causeway Bay and the Central Government Offices, counting people at designated spots along the way. It estimated at least 500,000.