240,000? 1 million? How many Hong Kong protesters marched against extradition bill?

Police provided a conservative 240,000 estimate, while the march organiser said it was more than a million.

Emily Lo | Matthias Ang | June 10, 2019, 06:24 PM

Massive crowds took to the streets of Hong Kong to protest a proposed extradition law that potentially allows China to target political dissidents.

According to Hong Kong Free Press, the protest was organised on June 9 by the Civil Human Rights Front, a coalition of pro-democracy groups.

However, estimated figures of the crowd have differed greatly.

A spokesperson for the protest's organisers stated that around 1.03 million people, or nearly one in seven people of Hong Kong's 7.48 million population, attended the march, CNN reported.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong police have pegged the number of protesters at around 240,000.

Social media shows rivers of people between skyscrapers

Videos and photos of the protests circulating on social media showed what could arguably be described as rivers of people moving between the city's skyscrapers.

Source: Lam Yik Fei Twitter

[video width="358" height="640" mp4="https://static.mothership.sg/1/2019/06/64395896_166453574384228_7520095854060058533_n.mp4"][/video]

Potentially the largest protest in Hong Kong's history since 1989

Additionally, the organiser's figure means that the number of protesters is potentially the largest in Hong Kong since 1989, when over a million people protested in support of the students in Beijing, according to Apple Daily and BBC.

As for other notable protests that have occurred in Hong Kong, here's how the figures of the current protest match up against them:

  • July 2003: Protest against proposed National Security Law, which allows the Hong Kong government to ban local groups with ties to organisations banned by mainland Chinese authorities:

    • Organisers' figure: 500,000,
    • Authorities' figure: 350,000.

  • July 2014: Protest against China's proposal for "universal suffrage" at annual pro-democracy rally marking Hong Kong's return to China:

    • Organisers' figure: 510,000,
    • Authorities' figure: 98,600.

  • September to October 2014: Occupy Central/Umbrella Revolution:

    • Up to 100,000 protesters at the protests' peak, according to Bloomberg.

One possible way to calculate the number of people on the streets is to look at the full-length video of the march and estimating the total number of people going past a certain point each second.

Assuming 50 people crossing a certain point every second, there are approximately 3,000 people crossing a minute -- or 180,000 every hour.

If the flow of people for five hours is consistent, there will be at least 800,000 people.

Protest turned violent in front of Hong Kong's parliament

While the protest was largely peaceful, Reuters reported that a major outbreak of violence took place in front of Hong Kong's parliament, the Legislative Council building, in the early hours of June 10.

According to CNA, a number of the protesters had planned to stay outside the building until June 12, when the extradition bill goes through its second reading.

However, clashes erupted between the police and the protesters just after midnight, when the latter's permission to protest expired.

CNA reported that the police had begun to move in on the protesters while Reuters reported that protesters had attempted to force their way into the building.

Scenes of police aggression spread on social media

Scenes of police aggression have since been shared to social media, including videos of protesters being dragged and pepper sprayed.

Separately, the Hong Kong Police took to Facebook and Twitter to condemn the violence and damage caused by protesters, and highlighted that several of their colleagues had been injured in the process of restoring order.

Here's a translation of what the police said:

"We, Hong Kong Police Force, strongly condemn protesters’ violence at the Legislative Council Complex. Some of them attacked police using metal barricades, while intentionally damaging the surrounding facilities and objects. Repeated verbal warnings from the police did not stop the protesters. As we used pepper spray and batons in an attempt to control the situation, some of our colleagues were injured during the process. Hong Kong Police Force will not tolerate such acts as they disrupt public order. We will continue to follow up on the issue.

The letter of no objection, issued by the Hong Kong Police Force to the organiser, have already expired at 11:59pm, 9 June 2019. It allows public protest within the Legislative Council Complex before its expiry. Therefore, current public protests at Harcourt Road and Legislative Council are both illegal. We urge protesters to leave as soon as possible, and refrain from participating in any illegal activities and violent acts."


Top image by Anthony Kwan via Getty Images