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Police attempt to explain discrepancy in protester counts

TAIPEI -- Police put the number of protesters rallying around the Presidential Office in Taipei Sunday against a disputed trade pact with China at more than 100,000, saying they arrived at their figure using a method adopted by various countries, including the United States.

The National Police Agency estimated the number of demonstrators to have peaked at 116,000 at 4 p.m., falling to 101,900 as of 5 p.m., far short of the organizers' estimate of 500,000.

The police estimates put the figures at 82,400 at 6 p.m. and 57,000 at 7 p.m., when the rally was supposed to end. The gathered crowd started to disperse in throngs after student leaders announced the conclusion half an hour later.

The agency said they derived their count by multiplying the number of places filled with people by the number of people on average packed into each place, a method developed by Herbert Jacobs, a late professor of journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.

The agency said they arrived at their estimate by multiplying the total area of the sit-in by an average of three people per square meter, a method used in countries including the U.S., South Korea, the Philippines and Thailand.

Protesters at Sunday's rally were spread out over six areas radiating from the Presidential Office and the Legislature, with over 30,000 massing on Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office alone, according to the agency.

The demonstrators were demanding that the government take back the trade-in-services pact from the Legislature and create a law overseeing all agreements with China before legislative review of the pact could begin.

Sunday's rally followed a student-led occupation of the Legislature since March 18 and a police operation to remove protesters who broke into the Cabinet complex March 24.

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