Hong Kong By The Numbers
This is an update of the June 15 Hong Kong By The Numbers on the predicted number in the upcoming 7/1 march in Hong Kong.
In the application by the Civil Human Rights Front, an estimate of 50,000 was entered. In Ming Pao, "according to information, the internal estimate of the HKSAR government is that there only be about 30,000 people." Who knows how they derived that estimate? Or maybe that should be called a guesstimate?
Also in the same newpaper, "a pro-Beijing person told us that the number of marchers will be significantly fewer because the economy has improved, society is more harmonious and Tung Chee-hwa has resigned. Therefore, the citizens have less to complain about."
Ming Pao also described how the counts will be done.
Last year, the Civil Human Rights Front insisted that the number of marchers of 530,000 and almost led to all-out war with many scholars. According to information, the Civil Human Rights Front originally wanted the scholars in the Hong Kong Democratic Development Net to count the number of marchers this year, but the scholars unanimously wanted to stay neutral and have refused because they did not want another replay of last year's arguments. The Civil Human Rights Front has invitied the Educational Association to count the number of marchers.
Last year, Asian-Pacific Research Centre at the Chinese University of Hong Kong ran a public opinion poll before the 7/1 march and predicted 300,000 to attend. But the Chinese University of Hong Kong will not conduct such research this year. According to Assistant Professor Wong Kai-ying with the Research Centre, there is a lot less enthusiasm this year. A rough guess is that there will be 30,000 to 50,000 people. He pointed out that the enthusiastic atmosphere during the last two years were due to the economy and Tung Chee-hwa. Both factors are longer significant this year, and Wong does not think too many people will march for direct elections.
There will be counts conducted by Hong Kong University Population Opinion Programme under Robert Chung and also by the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor.
As a reminder, Human Rights Monitor reportedly found only 160,000 marchers last year and suppressed that number in deference to the 530,000 figure (see Hong Kong By The Numbers).
Here is one factor that may impact the attendance adversely. The major themes of this year's march are "Fight for direct elections" and "Oppose collusion between government and business people." Periodically, in calling for people to march on July 1, some speakers have made the major mistake of slipping from the "fight for direct elections" to "protesting the election of Donald Tsang." While this seems to be a cheap way of getting short-term political capital against Donald Tsang, it will backfire.
At the time when the so-called 'election' process was unfolding, Donald Tsang would have a preference of 95% of the voters (note: this calcuation is based upon the fact that Donald Tsang had about 80% support, Lee Wing-tat 3% and Chim Piu-chong less than 1% with 16% no preference; if the no preference category were excluded, Donald Tsang gets around 95%). A call to 'protest the election of Donald Tsang' is not supported by the majority of the population. Nobody is going to march to complain that Lee Wing-tat or Leung Kwok-hung were robbed of their chances to become Chief Executive. If there is a fight for direct elections, it will be against the procedures and not the actual (and very popular) outcome this time. One can criticize Donald Tsang for not setting a time-table for direct elections, but not for getting 'elected.'
There exists another factor that may impact the attendance. In The Standard, Stephen Vines wrote on June 24, 2005:
Have you heard about plans to "hijack'' the July 1 march for democracy? The scoop on this story comes from a man called Choi Chi-sum, the spokesman for the Society for Truth and Light, a Christian group which is considering boycotting the march because it will be led, among others, by the Women's Coalition of the HKSAR.
Choi has claimed that the Coalition and others who advocate equal rights for homosexuals will hijack the march by their presence. Apparently they may even raise the demand for an end to discrimination on the basis of gender orientation. Choi and his fellow zealots appear to believe that the call for universal suffrage is confined to the minimalist desire for people to cast their votes every now and again.
There is much more in the Vines' piece. But before you go any further, I would suggest that you read what Choi Chi-sum actually wrote in Ming Pao (via InMediaHK). The following is my (unauthorized) translation:
During the past two years, this writer and many friends took part in the July 1 marches to support the demand for democracy. But the arrangement by the Civil Human Rights Front this year will discourage people, because the Front has decided to let a gay organization lead the march from the front. Although the Civil Human Rights Front emphasized that the demands of the march are to fight for direct elections and to oppose collusion between government and businesses, the objective reality is that the demands of the gay organization will become a focus of media coverage and therefore create the impression that the march participants all support (or at least do not oppose) those demands. When the banners, placards and flags of the gay organization follow right behind the march's overall ones, this will make the controversial debate over the legislation against discrimination on the basis of gender orientation to become the third major theme of the march, thereby indirectly hijacking the march.
Although the Civil Human Rights Front denies that it is giving preferential treatment to the gay organization, it admits that the Human Rights Committee within the Civil Human Rights Front has continuously promoted educational activities on the legislation against discrimination on the basis of gender orientation, and it has also recommended handing out promotional leaflets on July 1. The problem is whether or not this hidden agenda has been voluntarily disclosed to the public. According to the understanding of this writer, the Civil Human Rights Front has allocated 10,000 HK dollars from the citizens' contributions to the gay organization to print promotional material for the march (if this is a rumor, then the Civil Human Rights Front needs to deny it immediately and also explain to the public whether it will fund activities that promote the legislation against discrimination on the basis of gender orientation).
The writer's worries that the Civil Human Rights Front is increasingly supporting the gay movement are well founded, because the Front would not have let them step in front of the march otherwise. If the F*L*G or a pro-Taiwan organization wants to join the Civil Human Rights Front and march at the front, will the Civil Human Rights Front let them? Does the Civil Human Rights Front not know the symbolic meaning of letting those groups march in the front?
The July 1 march is actually a march that encompasses many different issues. In the past two years, this writer as well as the gay organization were members of the march. Although this writer disagrees with establishing anti-discrimination legislation for gays that sets up special preferences for them alone, I respect the rights of gays to express their own demands and I do not object to them being a part of a large march. They can also organize their own march under their own banners. But when the demands of the gay organization become a hidden agenda in the July 1 march, their banners and placards will lead the march and the organizers will even subsidize their promotional materials, then this writer has no choice but to boycott the march.
Democracy was the most common denominator of the July 1 march. The organizers should raise those demands that the majority can accept in order to gather all the forces that support democracy. The organizers should avoid those controversial demands that are not popularly accepted. It is regrettable, but this writer wonders if the Civil Human Rights Front has come under the control of organizations that support the gay movement to the point where they are promoting the gay organization and even forcing other democracy-supporting organizations to support the gay movement at the same time.
Not matter what, the writer and many friends will continue to support democracy, human rights and freedom. But supporting democracy does not mean supporting the Civil Human Rights Front and supporting human rights does not mean supporting the gays to obtain special privileges. If the Civil Human Rights Front insist on supporting the gay movement, it will cause many organizations and people who have reservations about the gay movement to stay away. Is this what the Civil Human Rights Front wants?
Choi Chi-sum, General Secretary, Society for Truth and Light, June 18, 2005.
Now you can finish reading Vines in The Standard.
To given an example of what the Chinese media are saying, here is "Ling Nam" at InMediaHK (in Chinese);
[in translation] Recently, many commentators have criticized the plan by the Civil Human Rights Front to let a gay organization lead the front of the march. The Society for Truth and Light asked not to give 'special privileges' to the gays. Other citizens believe that the gays are a small minority in society and does not reflect the 'mainstream will'; they think that the gays have issues that detract from the two major themes of 'fight for direct elections' and 'oppose collusion between government and businesses' and they are even worried that the gays have 'hijacked' the march.
The organizers have emphasized again and again that the gays have the right to march and that the invitation to have them lead the front does not have any singular implications. Yet, many still continue to criticize the Civil Human Rights Front. Many of them speak loudly, but also ambiguously. It seems that they don't understand why they have joined the Civil Human Rights Front. Was it because they are from the 'civil' sector? Or was it because they are fighting for 'human rights'? Or did they fall out of this 'front' and begin to call this march a terrorist organization from the civil sector but with no human rights?
Even as the media are pressuring the Civil Human Rights Front and the citizens are still discussing the importance of July 1, perhaps it does not matter any more. Judging from the opinions of many citizens (as expressed on radio programs, and even some who are veterans of social movements) who superficially support the march, they are not very different from the Society for Truth and Light.
Mr. Choi Chi-sum said that inviting the gay comrades to lead the march is a 'special privilege' that would actually hurt them. The gays have the right to march, as long as they don't lead from the front. Then there are some citizens who think that the gays are a small minority which is in fact resisted by the majority of society; if the number of marchers drops down this year, it will be the gays' fault. Therefore, for the sake of the future of the democratic movement, they must be patient and stay low. On the day when democracy finally arrives, it will be the day when the gays can speak up.
Actually, this is the root of discrmination on the basis of gender orientation.
Several weeks ago, this writer had a reunion with classmates. During the dinner, we spoke about whether the government should introduce legislation that bans discrimination on the basis of gender orientation, and we expressed out thoughts about such discrimination. Someone asked: "Do you discriminate against your gay friends?" Everybody said, "Of course not! Gender orientation is a basic human right. Every person has the right to choose his/her own companion." And then someone asked: "Can you accept a same-sex couple kissing in front of you?" Some of the classmates said, "No. I find that disgusting." But they added that they will accept an opposite-sex couple doing the same; in fact, if that happens, they would be peeking at them with interest.
From this story, we can see that there is a conflict between the two viewpoints of "respect for different gender orientation" and "maintaining the July 1 spirit." The reason is that some citizens will not allow the gays to cross their own bottom line even as they say that they respect the freedom of others. From the answers of my classmates, it can be seen that this is a prejudicial attitude. The criticisms against the Civil Human Rights Front contain this same thread. Even as the citizens have no right to control the gender orientation of others, they apply differential attitudes towards these social differences. In that sense, those citizens have never really supported the Front.
At this time, I don't think that the Civil Human Rights Front can rescind the invitation; if they did, they might as fell as shut down the Front for succumbing to pressure instead of standing up for principles. Personally, I support the freedom of choosing gender orientation. I have no problems with a "same-sex" couple kissing in front of me, because this is just the free and quite conventional expression of that choice. If I can't deal with the kissing, then I must not be honest about my alleged support.
P.S. I am intrigued by Choi Chi-sum's question: Would the Civil Human Rights Front invite the F*L*G or a pro-Taiwan-independence group to be at the head of the march? After all, they too are identifiable and vulnerable minorities, and yet these groups are so unpopular that this would probably destroy the event.
And there were also two essays by Ma Kit-wai in Ming Pao (via InMediaHK, in Chinese):
[in translation] The July 1st march has taken place two years already. In the first year, the people of Hong Kong had to take to the streets to express their opinions and they put a halt to the Article 23 legislation. They accomplished the impossible. In the second year, following the 500,000 marchers the first year, they marched in severe heat and indirectly caused the resignation of Tung Chee-hwa.
There is much less discontent this year. Donald Tsang has not shown his true colors as Chief Executive, and there was no reason to be out there screaming "Down with Tsang" when he has not done anything yet.
As for the direct elections, the more pressing problem under the political reality is to explore and define the political reforms and that is where the public pressure ought to be applied. It is not necessary to go into the streets as there are oppression/resistance points. The fight for direct elections is a gradual process.
In addition, the matter of collusion between government and businesses is a soft and nebulous phenomenon for which there is no sense to march in the streets when there is no obvious 'bad guy.'
Letting the gays lead the march is somewhat inappropriate. Here I don't mean the unbelievable moral criticisms of the Society for Truth and Light. To let the gays lead the march diffuses the demands of the June 1 march -- is this a march for the rights of gays? To let the socially vulnerable groups speak out? A social carnival? For these longstanding demands, it is not necessary to be done on June 1 nor force all the citizens to be out there.
July 1 is not June 4. There is no need to remember it every year. As long as June 4 is not vindicated, the souls will not rest, and the people of Hong Kong will go out every year to give their moral support and insist on the pursuit of the truth. It is enough to have June 4; there is no need to have another July 1 that is a baggage for 500,000 to get out in the streets.
If there are not good enough reasons, then why have a Hong Kong-wide march? If this is going to be continued, its definition must be consciously made to set up a new tradition.
If you ask me, I will tell you frankly that I feel that this year's July 1 is optional. Unless there is a serious issue in Hong Kong, we are better off letting the 2003 July 1 march be a good memory.
After writing the above, I was bothered because it seemed that I was saying something negative just before the march and therefore not supporting the democratic movement.
But that piece did reflected what I wanted to say. The last two marches created a new situation in Hong Kong. But is it still necessary to hold the event every year? Should it become an annual event in Hong Kong? This big question should be answered.
I don't like formalism. Just because we had two years of popular marches on July 1 means that we must maintain the July 1 emotions? Do we have to search for another one or two demands every year to make up the next grand project?
Movements have their trajectories. The mass movement of June 4, 1989 led the situation and the march created a new situation between Hong Kong and mainland China. The Hong Kong people stirred up new nationalistic emotions whereas mainland China created many years of oppression afterwards (or it can be said that they let stability ruled over everything else).
Thereafter the annual June 4 event changed in nature; it was not the forefront of history, but it was reliving history. The first time in 1989 was a pioneering event; all other memorials became political rituals in which the people of Hong Kong relived their memories and reaffirmed their resolution in a sea of candles.
The 2003 and 2004 July 1 marches were also pioneering events. After July 1, Hong Kong became a different place as old vistas were disrupted and new awareness came in. The people of Hong Kong had a new self-awareness, the government faced new pressures and the central government put in new policies. After the two years of July 1, will this become an annual ritual? June 4 was able to successfully transform its nature, but this year's July 1 is still ill-defined.
If the Civil Human Rights Front calls out: We will march every July 1 until direct elections are realized! Whether this civil movement will work or not, its direction is certainly clear.
If the Civil Human Rights Front calls out: Each July 1 shall be the carnival parade for Hong Kong's social community! Whether this civil street party will work or not, its direction is certainly clear.
But to say it is necessary to invent a reason to go out again this year because there were previous July 1 marches is a weak reason in the heavy shadow of the accomplishments of the past.
P.S. The South China Morning Post identified yet another group of July 1 marchers: "A group of doctors led by legislator for the medical sector Kwok Ka-ki urged colleagues joining the march to wear their white gowns. Dr Kwok hoped colleagues would turn out to fight the renaming of the University of Hong Kong's medical faculty following tycoon Li Ka-shing's $1 billion donation." How many people will march for that particular cause? PLEASE!!!