Date
17 October 2017
Just how many people to the street for the July 1 protest? The answer could be in some high-tech, off-limits number crunching. Photo: HKEJ
Just how many people to the street for the July 1 protest? The answer could be in some high-tech, off-limits number crunching. Photo: HKEJ

Losing count: Real crowd number in realm of high-tech few

Crowd estimates for the July 1 protests varied widely from under 100,000 to more than half a million but a more definitive number is in the realm of high-tech possibility — it’s just that it’s in the hands of the few, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported Thursday.

Remote sensing satellites, for example, could be used to snap a clear overview of protesters in the same way that Google Maps can zero in on homes and cars in the suburbs of any urban center. Military satellites have an even higher resolution that can capture images of a 10,000 square meter area, about four times of size of Hong Kong, in just one minute.

By taking a big picture at the height of a protest and using specialized software to count heads, an accurate number would be a reasonably simple calculation, the report said.

Another “low-tech” high-tech method would be to collate data collected at mobile phone transmission stations along the route. Phone linkups with the stations would suggest just how many people were passing through the area at any time. But many of these telecommunications companies are closed doors and are unlikely to release such information on national security grounds.

Hundreds of thousands of people marched in Hong Kong on July 1 to mark the anniversary of its handover to China and demand democratic reform.

By nightfall, the turnout had been put at 510,000, the biggest since the observance began, according to Civil Human Rights Front, organizer of the march. Police estimated the crowd at 98,000 and the Public Opinion Program of the University of Hong Kong put it at 172,000.

The marchers demanded true democracy in the election of the next chief executive in 2017 and expressed their dissatisfaction with the government under Leung Chun-ying.

Some denounced a white paper issued recently by China on its Hong Kong policy under the “one country, two systems” doctrine.

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VW/AC/SK

Freelance journalist

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