• Sun
  • Sep 14, 2014
  • Updated: 2:10pm
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.


Related topics

For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

Because every protest organizer wants it to sound like there's a lot of people participating. Occupy Central, or Anti-Occupy Central, it's all the same in that particular regard.
It's not a surprise to see the partisans complain that the 3rd party counts deflate the count for their course, while inflate the count of their opponent's cause.
The biggest difference in numbers can be found in the case of the Nanjing Massacre (also known as the Rape of Nanjing) that took place in 1937. The Japanese said there was zero victim. But I have been brought up to believe that there were 300,000 victims. Having gone through the recent years in which different academics, particularly statisticians, came up with different numbers of protesters taking part in demonstrations in HK, I am beginning to ask whether the historians who stick to the 300,000 figure have been backed by statistians who were more reliable than those who are now giving us vastly different numbers for the same events.
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…...
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.
No matter what. Hong Kong is divided.
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 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!
From my own experience, having been required to judge the number of people in Kowloon Park at night, during a celebration, with exits and entrances out of sight, I used my imagination to come up with a likely number - 16,301.9 - and sent it 'upstairs'. There were no comments or complaints - it's an inexact science. LOL ....




SCMP.com Account