Hong Kong By The Numbers

This post will actually have little to say about numbers.  In brief, Tens of thousands at vigil (by Justin Mitchell and Michael Ng, The Standard, June 5, 2006):

Seventeen years after their children were slain or disappeared, the tightly monitored Tiananmen Mothers group presumably grieved privately Sunday, while in Hong Kong 44,000 people, according to organizers, gathered for a candlelight vigil in Victoria Park to give grief a public voice in remembrance of the June 4, 1989, massacre.  Police put the turnout at 19,000.

For the sake of completeness, here is the list of attendance figures over the years (see the 2005 edition of Hong Kong By The Numbers):

Historical record (Alliance figure/police estimate)

Whereas it was interesting to track how different newspapers reported the numbers last year, there wasn't much to do with the numbers this year.  Instead, it would be about the emphases that the newspapers put on this event.

As usual, Tai Kung Pao and Wen Wen Po will pretend that this event never took place.  But here are the front page from various other newspapers in town:

Top Row (L-R)

Bottom Row (L-R)

At the financially beleaguered Sing Pao, the Hong Kong local news section on the website consists of only five items.  

The first item is that tourist bus robbery in which the robbers threatened to blow the brains out of anyone who does not obey their orders.  There is plenty of statistics too.  In the third item, the police prevented a Wo Sing Wo triad gang fight and arrested 46 people.  In the fourth item, 20% of the population plan to make illegal bets on the World Cup.  In the fifth item, in a fight between a wife and a concubine, both were injured.  But you won't read about the 44,000/19,000 people at Victoria Park.

The second item in Sing Pao is also the one on the front page of am730.  Here are the details from the South China Morning Post in a full article titled "Tsang denies he attended concert for democracy" by Chow Chung-yan, Jimmy Cheung and Andy Cheng:

Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen yesterday denied having attended a pro-democracy concert in 1989 as claimed by the Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China.  But Mr Tsang admitted he happened to be dining with his son at the Jockey Club in Happy Valley the same day a concert was held at the racecourse in support of the student-led pro-democracy movement in Beijing.

Mr Tsang, speaking during an official trip to Yunnan, denied he had ever attended the concert.  "I have never attended any event organised by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements. What you just mentioned was an event organised by them, and I did not attend that event," he said.

Information co-ordinator Andy Ho On-tat who is accompanying the chief executive, later said Mr Tsang went to the Jockey Club with his son for dinner that night, while the concert was held at the racecourse during the day.  Mr Ho said Mr Tsang bumped into alliance chairman Szeto Wah outside the restaurant and they had a brief conversation.

But Mr Szeto last night said that he clearly remembered Mr Tsang telling him he had taken his son to the concert 17 years ago.  "It was shortly after 2pm that day and I ran into Donald Tsang on the grass field. He took the initiative to greet me. He told me he had brought his son to the concert and they were leaving."

The concert on May 27, 1989, was attended by prominent celebrities and broadcast live in the city, a few days before the crackdown on student protesters in Tiananmen Square.

Asked why Mr Tsang's version of events differed, Mr Szeto said: "It's up to him to say what he wants."  Mr Szeto's claim - that Mr Tsang attended the concert - was first made last Sunday when he used the anecdote to show that Mr Tsang still had "a little enthusiasm" for democracy in the colonial days.  

But the chief executive's office immediately denied Mr Tsang had joined the event.  Mr Tsang was a director of administration at the time and barred from joining political activities.

Speaking on radio programme Without Limits last night, Mr Szeto said Mr Tsang was making a "technical denial", as the concert was organised by the show-business sector, not the alliance.  "If he hadn't attended the concert, he would have left the Jockey Club after the dinner. I didn't meet him inside the Jockey Club," he said, referring to the grass field where Mr Szeto claimed to have met Mr Tsang.  He said the dining area of the club was separated from the racecourse and Mr Tsang would not have crossed the track to the grass field if he was just there eating.

Alliance vice-chairman Lee Cheuk-yan said it was a question of integrity: "Donald has nothing to hide. What's the big deal if he did attend the concert?" 

At the Hong Kong Media Workers Discussion Forum, the following was posted:

[in translation]

- As the Bus Uncle said, the June 4th incident is: Not solved, not solved, not solved!!!!!!! -- The Chinese Communist leaders have pressure, the real Chief Executive has pressure and the families of the dead also have pressure
- The spokesperson for the Chief Executive added that Donald Stands had dinner with his 13-year-old son at the Royal Jockey Club and they encountered Szeto Wah as they were leaving.  The two chatted briefly.  Tsang was not attending the event -- The other important witness is Tsang's 30-year-old son.  The paparazzis should chase him now and interview him to get him to testify against his father.
- They can to to Hong Kong's Po Shan Road, Number 1, Building Three, Apartment 12B and ask for Simon Tsang.

What is wrong with this whole thing here (apart from invading the privacy of Simon Tsang)?  The name of the organization is the Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China.  After organizing this event in which 44,000/19,000 persons attended, the headline stories appeared to be about the variable accounts of a concert/dinner seventeen years ago.  I repeat: the name of the organization is the Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China.  Which part of this story has to do with patriotic, democratic, movements and China?  How off-message can this possibly get?  How did the message get sidetracked?  Read the South China Morning Post report -- everybody named therein, plus the media.