• Fri
  • Dec 19, 2014
  • Updated: 4:02pm
My Take
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 August, 2014, 5:17am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 August, 2014, 5:45am

Hong Kong protesters, police get all tangled up in the numbers game

There we go again over the numbers game.

Police said about 111,000 people took part in the protest against Occupy Central on Sunday. This is more than its estimate of 98,600 for the pro-democracy march on July 1. The University of Hong Kong public opinion programme put the number at between 79,000 and 88,000, roughly half its estimate for the July 1 rally. The Alliance for Peace and Democracy, which organised Sunday's pro-Beijing protest, originally put the figure at 193,000 but yesterday, Robert Chow Yung, the movement's co-founder and point man, raised it to a quarter of a million.

It's ironic that despite their opposition and mutual antagonism, both the pan-democrats and Chow's alliance are equally prone to exaggerating the number of their supporters at rallies they organise.

Every year, we go through this numbers game, though usually it's the pan-dems against the police. The former tends to exaggerate while the latter is usually too conservative. This time, however, some pan-dem sympathisers claim police were being more liberal than usual in their counting on Sunday. Who knows? Still, it's a big difference between 111,000 and 250,000.

Such disputes over numbers happen everywhere and may not be terribly meaningful. Usually, the disparities between official and organiser estimates happen because they are not counting the same thing. Organisers of this year's July 1 march claimed more than half a million took part, against the police figure of 98,600. The police tended to focus on counting the maximum number of marchers at any given time, while organisers tried to include people who left the march early and others who joined later.

There was a similar dispute in April over the size of the protest crowd in Taipei against a trade pact between the mainland and Taiwan, another case of half a million as claimed by organisers versus a Taipei police estimate of 116,000 people.

Of course, the alliance's case is more dodgy with allegations of people being bussed in and offered lunch or paid cash to join the rally. What these mass rallies show is how divided our society is and how angry many people have become. But this we already know, regardless of the real numbers.


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This article is now closed to comments

The 1st July march was not a pure pro-OC march to start off with. If I remember correctly, SCMP interviewed the marchers randomly and found ~40% agree to OC. So what's the point in comparing the numbers of marchers?
It only takes eyes to see the police estimates are politically motivated. Any sane person who compares the two marches will tell you that the July 1st march was far greater than this anti-OC farce. And yet, the police & government are actually stating that the opposite is true. It's obvious now that this is all a back door, government orchestrated means of appeasing the CCP, as well as the local cronies. But the real truth shall prevail, and set the Hong Kong people free!
But it really does expose the alleged impartiality of the police now, doesn't it?
As so many things in and from China, fake protesters, fake figures. What a joke, or rather, what a scam. Good luck Hong Kong.
The numbers don't matter. My plan is to enjoy my "way of life" agreed under the joint declaration for the remaining 33 years. And I hope Beijing will go easy on Hong Kong as the clock tick into 1 July 2047. May sense and sensibility prevail in Hong Kong. And may peace and stability prevail on Earth.
So...through your
meandering pace of march
and wandering into shops throughout
Not ever fully accounting
In a scientific manner
Can say without a doubt
That the pro freedom (democrazy to you) crowd
Were LESS organized than the anti freedom crowd?
Pierce, old boy
I feel the sun may have burned
A bit too heavily upon your head
That day 14817
Doesn't matter if it is only 80 K less or more, the fact that people turned up to register their opinions is testament of the democracy we enjoy in this city.
I echo mh0908's wishes…...
No matter what. Hong Kong is divided.
Save the rally immediately following 8964
last Sunday’s rally was the most impressive in my experience
The cohesive atmosphere of close ranks
of participants matching constantly in tight formation
was unlike the loose and scattered clusters
so characterized the matches of democrazy
Mostly as an observer and sometimes a compatriot
I often started in Wanchai
visiting bookshops, bird shops and factory outlets
going up every footbridge to take pictures
while floating with the flow to Central
It was indisputably clear
in number, purpose and solidarity
14817 prevailed over all other recent matches
In order to make participant number meaningful (whatever it means to the user), the number should be qualified by location and time and make known to the public. In the process desirably no guessing or averaging but actual counting should be presented.
So there should be a set of those numbers presented of which the public can use. And how they would be used should let the users to decide. I am sure the interpretation of those factual numbers could create a picture with some index indicating the quality or nature of the rally.
It is difficult but not impossible to detect counting the same people more than once who rejoin a rally later.
Presently the huge discrepancy in reporting number is truly shocking and therefore become more a number game that in the long run desensitizes us all.
PS So welcome back AL. I don't think you were in any of the rally?




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