I see we are back to the traditional argument between the organizers and the police about how many people joined yesterday's march. The police say 200,000, the organizers more than half a million. Clearly there were fewer than last year, so on the face of it the higher numbers sounds unlikely, but I have always believed that the figure of 500,000 for last year was definitely on the low side.
The same thing happens all over the world, I think. The organizers probably exaggerate somewhat, and the police always come up with low numbers. If the police were willing to accept* that around half a million marched last year, the true figure was probably somewhat higher, but the organizers were more than satisfied with the turnout so they had no reason to argue. Clearly the message got across and the government responded.
[* UPDATE: it seems that the police estimate last year was 350,000, but the figure of 500,000 is now generally accepted. A lot more on estimating the numbers of people here]
The exact numbers probably don't matter too much - even if 'only' 200,000 people walked through the streets of Hong Kong that definitely sends a message, and the pictures of crowds gathering in Victoria Park and walking through Wan Chai create a strong impression. Plus it was peaceful and good-natured.
I didn't join the march yesterday, but I was there last year - and I say 'there' quite deliberately.
In 2003, just getting to Causeway Bay was quite a challenge - in fact it almost seemed as if the MTR were trying to make it difficult for everyone. I'd be interested to know whether they laid on extra trains this year, because last year it was just about impossible to get on to the Island Line eastbound at Admiralty.
By the time we got to Causeway Bay there was a large crowd of people waiting to get into Victoria Park. We joined the queue and spent several hours moving forward only a couple of hundred yards (around Paterson Street) only to discover that the police seemed to have given up on organizing the queue and other people were joining it further on. It certainly looked as if we would had to wait another couple of hours just to get into Victoria Park, so we gave up and went home. I know that people were still marching late into the evening, so we would have had our chance if we'd have been patient, but waiting any longer in the sweltering heat was just too much.
This year they started the march early because there were so many people waiting to join, and I guess the whole thing was better organized. I suppose that last year the number of people was so much higher than expectations that it wasn't surprising that there were a few problems, but at the time I felt quite upset at being unable to march. When I discovered how many people had marched and the impact of the turnout I didn't feel so bad, and even though I spent my afternoon queuing in Causeway Bay at least I was there.