HKU POP SITE releases initial estimation of the number of people attending New Year RallyBack

Press Release on January 2, 2004

Director of Public Opinion Programme, Robert Ting-Yiu Chung, together with a number of volunteer researchers from the HKU Student Research Team, yesterday conducted a head-count of demonstrators passing through the footbridge at the junction of Hennessy Road and O'Brien Road, in order to project the total number of people attending the rally. Released herewith is a preliminary estimate.


The counting method in brief


  • The research team first divided the cross section of Hennessy Road into several segments. The number of people passing through these segments was recorded once every 10 minutes.
  • Head-count was done mainly by using mechanical manual counters, with 2 researchers counting the same segment at the same time, while video taping was done by a third researcher in parallel. The figures obtained from these 3 separate sources were cross-checked at a later stage.
  • At the same time, the road condition was recorded by the research team in detail, including the number of cross-section segments occupied by the demonstrators, and the effects of police's control on the flow.
  • After cross-checking, our raw figures of people passing under the footbridge at O'Brien Road are summarized as follows:
        From 1607 to 1639: an average of 316 people per minute
        From 1640 to 1657: an average of 512 people per minute
        From 1658 to 1716: an average of 376 people per minute
        From 1717 to 1746: an average of 325 people per minute
        From 1747 to 1756: an average of 232 people per minute
  • The above figures have been cross-checked across 3 different sources, and specific road conditions also considered.

The projection method in brief


  • Based on these figures, the number of demonstrators passing under the footbridge at O'Brien Road were estimated to be somewhere between 36,000 and 40,000, using an error margin of 5%. However, this estimate did not include those people who did not pass through the check point because they joined the rally after that point, or left before reaching that point.
  • According to our random opinion survey conducted after the July 1 Demonstration, 43% of the protestors did not pass through that location in that rally.
  • Figures from random opinion surveys on New Year Rally are not yet available. We only have a random on-site survey of 886 subjects, and another 410 on-line questionnaires returned up to now.
  • We estimate that the proportion of demonstrators not passing through this check point yesterday could be as low as 20%.
  • Taking 20% as the lower bound for adjustment, 43% as the upper bound, together with a 5% error margin, our initial estimate place the final figure somewhere between 45,000 and 74,000, depending on further results coming from random opinion surveys.

Points to note (personal opinions from Robert Chung, Director of POP)


  • Although there are still many blind spots in this method, it should be a comparatively scientific. We welcome explanation of other methods developed by other parties, so that we can learn form each other.
  • Due to our limited manpower, we were not able to set up more check points, nor could we analyze the number of people moving in and out of the rally.
  • We hope more professionals would participate in future head-count and man-flow studies, so as to provide reliable figures in an objective and effective way. Head-count figures should not be twisted for political reasons.

Enquires and other matters


Robert Ting-Yiu Chung, Director of Public Opinion Programme, is responsible for everything posted herewith, which does not represent the stand of the University of Hong Kong and the HKU Student Research Team. Shall any person have any other questions, please email them to us at <[email protected]>. The Director of Public Opinion Programme would answer them as soon as possible.


Joseph Man Chan, Professor at the School of Journalism and Communication of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and Robert Ting-Yiu Chung, Director of Public Opinion Programme, have yesterday also conducted a random on-site opinion surveys at the Victoria Park and along the marching route. Nearly 900 demonstrators were interviewed at different locations and at different times. Preliminary results will be released tomorrow. Participants of the New Year Rally are also welcome to participate in an on-line survey at the website in the next three days.