January 1, 2010 in Hong Kong

This is a selection of the big news stories in Hong Kong the next day.

(South China Morning News)  Multitudes march for universal suffrage   By Albert Wong and Eva Wu.  January 2, 2010.

The central government's liaison office last night witnessed the largest mass gathering on its doorstep as tens of thousands of people walked past, calling for genuine universal suffrage, and hundreds insisting on a direct acknowledgement of their demands stayed on.

March organisers claimed about 30,000 people took part, far exceeding their expectations, and cited the turnout as an example of the Hong Kong public's desire for the abolition of functional constituencies to achieve genuine universal suffrage. Police said about 9,000 marchers arrived at the liaison office.

The turnout exceeded the estimated 22,000 people who marched from Victoria Park to the Central Government Offices in January 2008 after a National People's Congress decision ruling out universal suffrage in 2012. At the time, police estimated the Victoria Park marchers at 6,800.

Police security around the liaison office, Beijing's representative in Hong Kong, was visibly tight, with layers of railings and human chains protecting the building. More than 1,000 officers were deployed for the march.

Nevertheless, about 10 radical activists, mostly supporters of the League of Social Democrats, broke through the cordon and charged towards the building. Tension built when several hundred protesters also approached the building, forcing the closure of Des Voeux Road for an hour. Two police officers and one protester were injured in the scuffles, according to police.

It was not until 7.45pm, after league members were allowed to lay a coffin at the building's back entrance, that the protesters dispersed.

Demonstrations outside the liaison office have often been marred by incidents, with staff in the building openly showing their displeasure at the protesters on their doorstep.

Recently, the staff twice threw back a birthday card protesters had hoped the liaison office would send on to jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo. Although yesterday's march was ostensibly for genuine universal suffrage and taking place within the consultation period for political reform, various groups ranging from women's rights advocates to residents of different districts dissatisfied with government planning decisions also took to the streets.

However, the most prominent issue that attracted the participants was the sentencing of Liu for 11 years on Christmas Day after he was found guilty of subversion. Liu was a key drafter of the Charter 08 manifesto for democratic reform on the mainland.

Before the march, the Civic Party members unveiled a "democracy wall" on which they invited the public to write their political demands. Legal sector lawmaker Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee said the original Democracy Wall came into being in 1978 and began the democracy movement. "It was with that spirit that the Charter 08 was drafted. But the drafter of that charter is now in jail," she said.

Joining the march for democracy were children and parents living under welfare, investors in failed minibonds, villagers from Tsoi Yuen Tsuen who oppose their displacement to make way for the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, Kowloon residents displeased by government plans to redevelop the Kai Tak airport site, and people who oppose the building of columbariums, or repositories for ashes of the dead, near their homes in different parts of the New Territories. "It doesn't matter what the march is about, we just want to vent our anger," said Yau Fuk-loy, a Tai Po resident who saw a columbarium constructed near his home.

Pan-democrats cited the various groups as an example of how the slow pace of democratic reform is causing a plethora of social problems. Tsoi Yuen Tsuen residents, in particular, aligned their cause with the call to abolish functional constituencies, as lawmakers from those seats were adamantly pushing the express rail link plan.

The head of the march left Chater Road in Central at about 3pm and arrived at the liaison office in Western District at about 5pm. Protesters grumbled when they realised they could only tie their ribbons and placards on railings on the other side of Des Voeux Road, almost 20 metres away from the liaison office.

Supporters of the League of Social Democrats brought up the rear, arriving at about 6pm. After half an hour, they managed to break through the police cordon and encamped in the middle of Des Voeux Road, demanding they be allowed to present a coffin to the liaison office.

Traffic on Des Voeux Road West had to be blocked for an hour until the protesters dispersed.

(Apple Daily)

30,000 persons in the streets for universal suffrage
Young people take over the baton for democracy

The Hong Kong Federation of Students had a group of about 20 people in the march yesterday.  Federation secretary-general Chow Teng said that young people are motivated to march and demonstrate: "We do not carry any historical baggage.  We are brave to challenge unreasonable systems.  For example, the functional constituencies are unfair things left over from the colonial era."  Another Federation member Yip Chua-yan said that she will be graduating in 2012, by which time she did not want to see the Chief Executive still being nominated by a small circle and the Legislative Council still being controlled by the functional constituencies.  "I began to march with my parents in 2003, so I am the second generation to fight for democracy.  I think that it would be pretty ridiculous not to see universal suffrage in 2012."

After the march was over, a young man with a hat band raised up a placard in front of the Police Tactical Unit officers with the words: "This is a warning.  Young people do not have patience for dog officials.  We are prepared for violence and bloodshed."  The slogan was signed JIUU, which is an art group consisting of young artists and designers involved in creative art works that address issues such as livelihood, politics and culture.

Netizen PY Yick began a signature campaign for Charter 08 on Facebook.  He carried a megaphone yesterday in the march.  He has also found that more and more young people are demonstrating in the streets, including many rash young people who resort to extreme actions.  "Young people feel that they haven't achieved anything after a demonstration, so they use alternate methods to get what they want."  His online signature campaign drew more than 2,700 signatures in one week.  He was proud of the political consciousness of the young generation as manifested in so many netizens supporting Liu Xiaobo.

"Who is Liu Xiaobo?  Is he from Taiwan or Hong Kong?"  A middle-aged tourist couple from Beijing asked the reporter as they walked by the demonstration scene.  The wife said that this type of march is bad and would not be allowed on the mainland.  The husband added that it is permissible if it does not disturb the public order.  The husband also said: "I am a Communist Party member.  Our party cannot be negated.  It is not certain whether there should be one party or many parties.  The Communist Party is still superior, but it needs to improve itself."

Twitter carried live broadcasts of the march yesterday, linking mainland and Hong Kong netizens.  A netizen wrote: "Twenty years ago, Hong Kong was still a British colony but it did not stay away from the 1989 democracy movement in China; today, the mainland netizens support the demands of the Hong Kong pan-democrats via Twitter ... it is inflammatory to say that blood is thicker than water.  The proper interpretation is that our fates are joined.  I hope to see more mainland people join in to support the democratization of Hong Kong."



(Apple Daily

Some protestors banged gongs and drums to encourage the people while others clapped their hands in unison.  Some people sang the Internationale, while others chanted slogans to demand the release of Liu Xiaobo and the end of one-party rule.  Suddenly, demonstrators began to push at the metal barriers.  Under the strong attack by the demonstrators, the metal barriers were pushed back to the middle of De Voeux Road West.  The demonstrators who were outside the China Liaison Office then turned around and attacked the police defense line.  At this point, some police officers began to use pepper spray against the demonstrators.  The police guarding the back entrance of the China Liaison Office did not dare come over because they were afraid that the demonstrators may break into the building if they leave.  Amidst the confusion, the police used a megaphone to announce that someone has fallen down.  The demonstrators stopped their attack.

League of Social Democrats chairman Raymond Wong Yuk-man called for the demonstrators to sit down in the street.  A policeman called his supervisor to say that the defense line has been thoroughly broken.  Traffic on the section of De Voeux Road West behind the China Liaison Office was completely paralyzed.  The police negotiated with the demonstrators and finally agreed to let the black fake coffin with the words "May the fascist Chinese Communist Party rest in peace" be brought in and placed at the back entrance of the China Liaison Office.  Raymond Wong "thanked" the police for their cooperation and announced that the peaceful demonstration has ended.  Traffic on De Voeux Road West was restored at 745pm.

According to the Western District police commander, the police mobilized about 1,000 police officers yesterday in consideration that there was a clash at the China Liaison Office last week.  He said that most the of the demonstrators were law-abiding and peaceful yesterday, but some of them pushed over the metal barriers and charged onto De Voeux Road West and caused traffic to be stopped.  These people also deliberately charged at the police.  During the incident, one male police officer, one female police officer and one female passerby were injured.  The police also received 16 complaints about excessive noise.

 (Oriental Daily)

Demonstration march turns into disturbance
China Liaison Office attacked from front and back

The demonstration was led by 13 pan-democratic legislators in front, while the League of Social Democrats brought up the rear.  By the time that the League of Social Democrats reached Chiu Kwong Street in Sai Wan, several hundred demonstrators led by April 5th Movement member Koo Sze-yiu began to move the cardboard coffin to the front of the column in order to place at the China Liaison Office.  The atmosphere tensed up immediately.  The police were prepared with two arrays of metal barriers in front of both the front and back entrances along with a human chain of police officers.  The demonstrators charged at the police many times, with many people falling down.  During the confrontation, some demonstrators banged gongs and drums to demand the police allow them to take the coffin to the entrance of the China Liaison Office.  Legislative Councilor Raymond Wong Yuk-man of the League of Social Democrats announced that the demonstrators will disperse peacefully if the police would allow them to take the cardboard coffin to the front of the China Liaison Office.  The two sides negotiated for half a hour before the police allowed twenty LSD members to bring the coffin to the China Liaison Office.

As the LSD members create a passageway for the cardboard coffin to pass through, a dozen police officers surrounded them because they were afraid of more clashes.  As the 20 people neared the China Liaison Office, Hong Kong University student Christina Chan and a dozen other demonstrators broke through the police line and sprinted towards the China Liaison Office, knocking down the metal barrier.  Christina Chan sat down on the road.  At that point, LSD chairman Raymond Wong Yuk-man used the megaphone to yell, "Christina Chan, stop playing tricks!"  This led to a shouting match. 

Christina Chan

The cardboard coffin was finally placed in front of the China Liaison Office to loud cheers.  Then someone set fire to a Chinese Communist Party flag on the tram road.  The police came and took the cardboard coffin into a back lane.

Power For Democracy convenor Tsoi Yiu-cheong said that the demonstration march was peaceful, and they have nothing to do with the disturbance that occurred later.  He believed that public opinion can be the judge of what happened.  Raymond Wong Yuk-man said that the action was very restrained and denied that the League of Social Democrats had hijacked the demonstration march. 

Chinese University of Hong Kong Political and Administrative Sciences Department senior lecturer Ivan Choi said that the fact that the pan-democrats changed the end point of the demonstration march from Government Headquarters to the Chinese Liaison Office shows that there is the belief that only a direct demonstration to the central government can be effective.  But Ivan Choi thinks that this will destroy relationship with the central government now that the pan-democrats are targeting the central government.

(Oriental Daily)

The January 1st march lasted more than four hours.  Towards the end, it became a confrontation between citizens and police which seriously disrupted traffic in Central and Western Hong Kong Island.  Some residents did not realize that the streets would be sealed off and therefore could not return home.  They were quite unhappy and complained to the police officers.  Some of the demonstrators charged at the China Liaison Office and caused a section of De Voeux Road West to be sealed off.  Tram services were halted temporarily for more than one hour.

When the demonstrators came down the principal roads of Queens Road Central and Queens Road West, the police shut down one car lane for them and this caused serious congestion.  Some taxi drivers said that the police should have planned better.  During the march, some demonstrators broke out of the line and took over both lanes on Queens Road Central, which caused chaos.  Many bus and mini-bus had to be re-routed due to this demonstration.

When the demonstrators went into the area with the boutiques and antique shops in Sheung Wan, some of them got onto the sidewalk instead.  This definitely brought down holiday business at these shops.

At 630pm, a group of demonstrators outside the China Liaison Office broke past the police line and took over a section of De Voeux West.  The police had to sealed the road off.  Many tram passengers had to get off and walk home.



(Ming Pao)

(Ming Pao)

Among the demonstrators is a woman born in the 1980's who is worried about being able to afford an apartment given the soaring housing prices; a 60-something-year-old senior citizen who said that young people have no opportunity to develop; a Form 3 middle school students who said that the government's language of instruction uses micro-level policies to divide friendship among students; Chiu King village residents who oppose a financial group building columbaria next to them; the To Kwa Wan Concern Group which pointed out that the government had not performed a full environmental impact assessment on the proposed railroad station ... many more people thought that the government was favoring the big financial groups and ignoring the needs of the grassroots, leading to a worsening in the wealth inequality.  They said that they realized that the destination of the march was the China Liaison Office and not the Hong Kong Government Headquarters, but they felt that they can also express their opinions to the central government.

Hong Kong's National People's Congress representative and DAB member Yip Kwok-him said that while the central government has the final say on the constitutional reform, it is up to Hong Kong to find a consensus at this point.  As for social issues such as the Express Rail Link and the columbaria, these should not have been presented to the China Liaison Office.  "I don't know whether this meant that people want the central government to get involved in these social issues?  The central government will not deal with these matters.  They will strictly observe 'one country, two systems' and 'a high degree of autonomy'."

But Chinese University of Hong Kong senior lecturer Ivan Choi said that the democrats used to place the emphasis on the SAR government and therefore their final destination was the Government Headquarters in the naive belief that "one country, two systems" and "Hong Kong people rule Hong Kong" are actually true.  But there has been a change in attitude in recent years, because the central government has interpreted the law many times.  They realized that their opponent in the constitution reform is the central government.  Under these circumstances, the China Liaison Office has made itself the target.  As to whether this will increase the opposition between the central government and the Hong Kong supporters of democracy, Choi said that "the central government caused this itself."

(Wen Wei Po)

The League of Social Democrats and the Civic Party "hijacked" this January 1st demonstration march.  Even regular demonstrator Christina Chan loudly questioned whether the League of Social Democrats was exploiting the event.  This caused "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung to become angry and told Chan that what she said "was not something that a human being could say."

(Wen Wei Po)

Although the main theme of the January 1st demonstration march has nothing to do with the "general resignation" that the League of Social Democrats and Civic Party want to promote, those two parties exploited the occasion by setting up four street stations to solicit donations.  Civic Party's Audrey Eu, Alan Leong and Tanya Chan spent their efforts on "raising money" and did not march the whole way.

When the Civic Party started out, they got their photos take by two assistants on the stage.  When the march began, Audrey Yu and Alan Leong stood in front of the Civic Party station in front of Mark & Spencer's to distribute flyers.  Less than one hundred paces down the street, Tanya Chan hung a donation box on herself next to the League of Social Democrats station.

(Ta Kung Pao)

January 1st march became disturbance
Various Hong Kong sectors condemn

(Sing Tao)

After the Democratic Party stated that it will not participate in the five-district general resignation, it became the target of attack for many supporters of the five-district general resignation.  League of Social Democrats vice-chairman Andrew To said before the march yesterday that supporters should not attack the Democratic Party during the march.

But League of Social Democrats chairman Raymond Wong Yuk-man led supporters to chant: "Support the League of Social Democrats, support the Civic Party, abandon the White Dove Party (note: the nickname of the Democratic Party)" during the march.


When Raymond Wong Yuk-man led his supported past the street station where Civic Party head Audrey Eu and vice-chairman Alan Leong stood, they applauded.  When Audrey Eu chanted, "Five-district referendum, the people raise their heads," the League of Social Democrats supporters chanted the same slogan.

After the march ended, Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho, vice-chairwoman Emily Lau and Civic Party member Ronny Tong stood on the podium across the China Liaison Office.  When the League of Social Democrats supporters arrived there, the situation took a quick turn as many of them yelled: "Support the five-district general resignation" and "You people can go home!"  The Legislative Councilors walked off the podium together with grim faces in order not to listen to these chants.  Power For Democracy convenor Tsoi Yiu-cheong was the only one left on the podium.






Other newspaper carried front page stories that are not about this demonstration/disturbance:

Headline Daily:
Verbally abused with foul language while purchasing bread
Francis Ng defends his wife and commits assault

Sing Tao Daily:
Mobile population will be permitted to apply for "resident certificate"
Guangzhou allowed another 30 million to get visas to visit Hong Kong

Sing Pao:
Six-year-old girl fights ovarian cancer

Hong Kong Commercial News:
China and the Association of South East Asian Nations enter an era of zero excise duty tax

Wen Wei Po:
Page A1: Real estate commercial advertisement
Page A2:
- Retail industry begins hot, with business volume increasing by 10%
- Emporium workers receive bonus equal to two months' pay
- 600,000 persons cross the Shenzhen border entry points yesterday
- Ten Shenzhen shopping groups on shopping spree; shopping mall intends to organize 130 shopping groups
- Housewife groups buying "one dollar New Year products"

Reality check:

(Earth Times)

More than 500,000 people were out in the streets of Hong Kong to celebrate the arrival of 2010 as fireworks exploded over the city of 7 million at midnight Thursday, police said Friday. An estimated 400,000 people lined the sides of Victoria Harbor to see a four-minute midnight fireworks display officiated by Hong Kong chief executive Donald Tsang.  Another 100,000 saw the new year in at Times Square, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong's premier shopping district, police said, while 20,000 people celebrated in the Lan Kwai Fong bar and restaurant district.

(South China Morning Post)  Why march numbers just don't add up   By Joshua But and Fox Yi Hu.  January 4, 2010

Every time there's a protest march, everyone wants to know how many took part. But police, organisers and neutral observers have never agreed on the numbers, and probably never will.

The inflation, or underestimation, of the size of the crowd was on show again in Friday's march for universal suffrage. Its organiser, the group Power For Democracy, said 30,000 people took part in the march from Causeway Bay to Sheung Wan. Police said about 6,800 people were in Victoria Park for the start of the march and that 9,000 gathered at its destination, the central government's liaison office.

That may appear a big gap, but it is far from the biggest. When the Civil Human Rights Front staged the second big pro-democracy march from Causeway Bay on July 1, 2004, it said 530,000 people took part; police put the number at 200,000. The July 1 march has since become an annual event, and last year organisers said 76,000 marched whereas police said only 28,000 took to the streets.

Researchers from the University of Hong Kong's public opinion programme have done their own count of participants in the July 1 marches since 2003. The programme estimated turnout in 2004 at between 180,000 and 207,000; last year its estimate was that between 29,000 and 33,000 marched. Both estimates were much closer to the figure given by the police than that of organisers.

Richard Tsoi Yiu-cheong, convenor of Power For Democracy and a July 1 march regular, said organisers took the peak attendance at a protest as their point of reference and took into account factors such as the number of people that roads along the route of a march could accommodate. Tsoi said the police always tended to underestimate turnout by not counting those who came late or left early.

He conceded, though, that because the group's resources were limited, its volunteers carried out headcounts of marchers on Friday at only two spots in Central and Western District. "We will not say our estimate is the most accurate one but it is a reference for the public and the government, showing that our calls for democracy are shared by the masses," he said.

Police consistently say the figures they issue are not official head counts but estimates for internal use for crowd control purposes. A spokesman said the force's counting method was "very systematic", with observation spots set up on flyovers. The force releases its highest estimate of turnouts.

Professor Paul Yip Siu-fai, an HKU statistician and part-time member of the government's Central Policy Unit think tank, said protest organisers and the media were "overly concerned about turnout". He has estimated the turnout for all the July 1 rallies and says his figures are often similar to those of the police, while organisers' figures are often twice or three times his own. Yip said the media often paid more heed to organisers' figures because they were usually more impressive. "Such huge gaps are uncommon for protests in developed countries," he said. "People are not so nervous about protest turnouts in other parts of the world."

(Hong Kong University Public Opinion Programme)  Press release.  July 12, 2009.

The following commentary was written by Director of POP Robert Chung.

Whether it is June 4, July 1 or any other mass gatherings or demonstrations, the headcount figures announced by the organizers and government units often show a huge difference. Director of POP Robert Chung have the following impressions after conducting totally 16 headcounts over the past 7 years:

  • All organizers tend to exaggerate their headcounts, while government units tend to underestimate the turnout. Using June 4 vigils as an example, the organizer's headcounts are usually 2 to 3 times that of the police figures.
  • Since both parties do not reveal their methodologies and detailed figures, there is no way people can monitor the process or check the results. The degree of scientificity and amount of exaggeration can hardly be estimated.
  • Interestingly, when measuring the same kind of activities over the years, although the headcount figures are so different from both parties, their trend of change is very consistent. We can therefore infer that the figures announced by organizers must have included some political and psychological factors which blow up their true values, while the government figures must have included some factors which compress the true figures. If there is basically no change in the ways the figures are stretched or compressed, then the direction of change across different years may be true, while the headcount figures themselves are not.
  • At certain times for certain activities, the differences between organizers¡¦ figures and government figures are reduced, probably because both parties are expecting some headcount figures compiled by third parties. ¡§Third parties¡¨ here means various scholars and experts who occasionally conducting headcounts. However, because these headcounts are irregular, and not meant to be official audits, they have set very little pressure on the relevant parties.

Before our society takes scientific headcount figures seriously, when reporting these figures, it would be better for our media to add expressions like ¡§according to organizers¡¦ claim¡¨, ¡§police estimates¡¨, and ¡§method unknown¡¨ when quoting them.

[Comment: Robert Chung attributed inflation by the organisers to "some political and psychological factors" and deflation by the government to "some factors."  Why do politicians have psychological needs to inflate numbers?]

(Hong Kong University Public Opinion Programme)  January 6, 2010.

The Public Opinion Programme (POP) at the University of Hong Kong conducted a headcount of the January 1 Rally organized by the Power for Democracy at the Walkway System on the footbridge of Central-Mid-Levels Escalator at the joint of Queen's Road Central and Cochrane Street in Central on January 1, 2010. Headcount figures showed that, excluding those who left the rally before the march arriving the checkpoint or joined the march after it, 8,774 people passed by the checkpoint. According to our previous data, it is estimated that the total number of participants of the January 1 Rally should be in between 10,000 and 12,000.

The adjustment factor was found by making reference to similar rallies out of the 20 mass demonstration headcount projects involving POP since the July 1 Rally in 2003. Although the nature, the route and the checkpoint of each rally may not be the same, the adjustment factor is indeed very similar with other rallies of the same type. Prior to obtaining other data, it should be applicable to this year's January 1 Rally.