Hong Kong By The Numbers
It is a tradition for this blog to keep track of numbers in Hong Kong demonstration marches. This is the annual march commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. For last year's march, see Hong Kong By The Numbers (May 31, 2005). First for the photographs.
(SCMP) Rain dents turnout by June 4 protesters. By Andy Cheng. May 29, 2006.
The turnout for the annual march commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown hit a new low yesterday, with organisers saying only 1,100 people joined the protest in rainy weather.
Those turning out included hundreds of Falun Gong followers.
The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, said after the march from Victoria Park to the Central Government Offices that the turnout was 1,100, but police put the figure at only 600.
Unionist lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan, vice-chairman of the alliance, said he was not disappointed with the turnout.
"It's been 17 years and still we have over 1,000 people marching today. I'm sure there will be about 40,000 people showing up at the candlelight gathering next Sunday, similar to last year," he said.
Last year, the alliance said the march turnout was 1,400.
In Ming Pao, there is a graph of the historical trends. The numbers in red are for the June 4 commemorative march. The numbers in white are for the candlelight gathering in Victoria Park. The numbers are supplied by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements.
So who was not there? Apple Daily showed a cartoon of a wanted poster for the four barristers (Audrey Eu, Ronny Tong, Alan Leong and Margaret Ng) of the Civic Party.
Why weren't they there? Ronny Tong explained that Sunday was 'family day.' Audrey Eu, Alan Leong and Margaret Ng were visiting Taiwan. Another Civic Party member Mandy Tam said that she forgot. And so on. The reason for the relatively low turnout may be the one that was addressed in Hong Kong By The Numbers (May 31, 2005). Among all the newspapers in Hong Kong, only one dealt with it directly in one paragraph.
Each year, the attendance figures at the June 4 march and the candlelight evening sit-in are focus points for the media. The record low figure at this year's march was not surprising. On one hand, the organizers did not promote the event. On the other hand, the weather was foul yesterday. So it was inevitable that the number of participants was affected downwards. But the small number did not imply that the people of Hong Kong are forgetting about the June 4 incident. In reviewing the HKU POP polls over the years, the percentage of people who supported the vindication of June 4th has risen from 50% in 1997 to 56% in 2005. The trend does not show any sign of going downhill.
Actually, the Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China and the June 4th incident have been thorns in the side of the central government. Although the Hong Kong economy has revived in recent years and the passion for political participation has cooled down a bit, the leftists are still interested in the number of people at the march and the evening gathering because these are thermometers of public opinion in Hong Kong.
The Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China admits that the people of Hong Kong are pragmatic. So they cannot expect to all come out each year for the commemorative activities. The Alliance would rather preserve their strengths for the more important landmark dates (such as the 5th or 10th anniversary). For the other years, they can let the supporters rest. There are also people who explained that the march before June 4th is actually a promotional event for the candlelight gathering. Therefore, the key will be the number of attendees at the evening gathering.
Apart from worrying over the number of participants, the Alliance also has to worry about the FLG. Perhaps the Alliance and the FLG both have the Communists as their "opponents." FLG usually invites the Alliance chairman Szeto Wah to attend. At yesterday's Alliance-organized march, about one-third of the marchers are FLG members. Two or three of them would hold up big banners: "Heaven will destroy the Communists," "Dafa will take care of Jiang Zemin," "Resign from the Communist Party" and so on. An uninformed person might even think that this was a FLG event. The Alliance knows that their guests are talking louder than their hosts. But the march is a public event and they cannot prevent others from participating. So they can only hope that the FLG members would respect that the theme of the event was "Vindicate June 4th."
If you know how to read Chinese, you can read the banners in the photographs above. Do the Civic Party barristers want to be photographed in front of the banners celebrating the resignation of 11 million Communist Party members or "Heaven will destroy the Communist Party"? How is Audrey Eu going to run for Chief Executive with that photograph included in the opposition research portfolio? The candlelight gathering on Sunday will be different, because the venue, the format and the audience size are different. But unless the rules are changed, this June 4th demonstration march will probably continue to see dwindling numbers. Last year, it was 1,000 people with 20% FLG; this year, it was 600 people with 33% FLG; next year, it may be 400 people with 50% FLG ... ? There is no quicker way to kill a monopolistic franchise.