2020 Explanatory Reporting, Large Newsroom finalist

Hong Kong protests

Measuring the masses

About the Project

When large-scale demonstrations plunged Hong Kong into political crisis in June 2019, the size of the crowds became a contentious issue. Police gave relatively low numbers, and protest organisers offered sharply higher estimates.

For the Reuters graphics team, this became an opportunity to dive deep into the science of crowd-counting and to check the competing claims, which were being watched as a proxy for the degree of public support for the protesters and their demands.

Reuters graphics journalists worked with crowd-science experts to explain the challenges in estimating crowd size of protesters constantly moving through the narrow, skyscraper-lined streets of Wan Chai and Central on Hong Kong island.

This project provided the knowledge to carry out our own ambitious crowd-counting analysis for a July 1 rally in Hong Kong, one of the summer’s defining mass protests. A team of graphics journalists deployed to elevated positions along the march and spent hours collecting data that would form our own independent analysis.

The piece explained exactly what happened that day and how Reuters were able to provide the calculation.

The two projects formed part of a larger series of information graphics and data-driven pieces focused on explaining the evolving protest movement.

While monitoring the July rally, footage from Reuters cameras helped the team document human chains passing equipment to those fighting against police and the evolving hand signals protesters used to communicate amidst the chaos. The result was another in-depth explanation, this time focusing on the coordination within the protest.

A few months later, the protests became increasingly violent. Reuters set out to quantify and depict the escalating force of the police response and again explain the events unfolding.

The explanatory projects drew on innovative reporting techniques, data, visuals, and strong presentation to connect the dots for readers and to illustrate the evolving nature of the protest movement.