Survey revises rally turnout to 210,000

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 July, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 July, 2004, 12:00am

Many marchers may have bypassed the headcount points

Disputes over the turnout of the July 1 rally took a new twist after a group of academics said the size of the crowd ranged from 180,000 to 210,000.

The latest study was conducted by prominent pollster Robert Chung Ting-yiu and fellow academics from University of Hong Kong, Chinese University and Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Unlike studies that only conducted spot headcounts or used aerial photos to estimate the crowd, the researchers added a survey to find out the proportion of marchers who might not have made it to the headcount points.

The Civil Human Rights Front has been challenged for claiming 530,000 people joined the pro-democracy march from Victoria Park to government headquarters.

Police put the figure at 200,000, assuming a maximum capacity of 170,000 for the streets along Causeway Bay to Central.

With the help of satellite pictures, studies for the Chinese-language newspaper Ming Pao estimated the crowd at 192,000.

Separate research by John Bacon-Shone - a former member of the government's Central Policy Unit think-tank and now with the University of Hong Kong's Social Sciences Research Centre - indicated turnout of 105,000 to 120,000.

In his latest article on the HKU Public Opinion Programme website, Dr Chung said the turnout should not be exploited for political ends.

According to headcounts conducted by his team at the junction of Hennessy Road and Arsenal Street, 149,000 people passed through.

Subsequent surveys later found that not all who participated in the rally had made it to that point. Of the 231 participants polled, 77.4 per cent said they had reached the area.

Assuming about 20 per cent of the participants had not been included in the headcounts, researchers came up with the final figure of 180,000 to 210,000.

But the academics conceded the methodology still had limitations as the survey excluded respondents aged below 18.

Co-researcher Jennifer Chan So-kuen, lecturer at the Hong Kong University department of statistics and actuarial science, said the size of the crowd did not necessarily show the strength and quality of people's aspirations.

Dr Chung added: 'Only in the absence of democracy and the lack of opportunity for people to express their aspirations through the ballot box would the turnout become such an important matter.'

He said the government and rally organisers should entrust headcounts to independent authorities and stay clear of such political disputes in future.

Jackie Hung Ling-yu, spokeswoman for the rally, reiterated that the organisers would not respond to individual turnout counts.

She stressed there was no plan to revise the figure. 'I think it's up to individual bodies to come up with their own estimate,' she said.


Civil Human Rights Front: 530,000

How: Based on police estimate of a capacity of 170,000 on the designated route at one time; and the fact that it takes 1.5 hours to march from Victoria Park to Central, the five-hour procession roughly comprised 530,000

Robert Chung Ting-yiu: 180,000 to 210,000

How: Six separate headcounts on the flow along each of the six traffic lanes at the junction of Hennessy Road and Arsenal Street. One-minute count every five minutes. A total of 149,000 walked past the checkpoints. Subsequent surveys found only 77 per cent of the participants had passed through the checkpoints. Figures therefore adjusted to 180,000 to 210,000

HKU social sciences research centre: 105,000 to 120,000

How: Two video cameras recorded from 3.30pm to 7.30pm on each side of a bridge in Queensway. The centre studied four seconds of footage for every 30 seconds on the video, generating a result of 30,000 marchers per hour