Polls to be shielded from triads: leader

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 January, 2007, 12:00am

A rural patriarch has pledged to fully co-operate with police to ensure ongoing village head elections are shielded from triad influence.

Yesterday's promise by Daniel Lam Wai-keung, vice-chairman of the Heung Yee Kuk, comes amid speculation that 101 suspected triads arrested in a police raid on Saturday in Tsim Sha Tsui had intended to influence the rural voting.

Mr Lam, who is also a legislator, admitted there had been 'some incidents' during the rural polls in the past because of keen competition but said the situation had improved a lot since new arrangements were put in place in 2003.

'Competition in the village polls used to be keen. And there were some incidents. But I believe the [Tsim Sha Tsui] arrests were unrelated to the ongoing poll. But we shall keep an eye on it and make sure our village representatives are elected in a fair, open and clean manner.'

Those arrested - all males - included 26 teenagers, 18 of them students, and a 12-year-old boy. A coach driver, who drove some of the suspects, was released unconditionally yesterday. The remaining 100 were released on police bail of between $1,000 and $10,000. They are suspected of being members of a triad faction.

The arrests were made in Granville Square outside Energy Plaza in Granville Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, in an operation with around 100 officers.

Commenting on the involvement of so many young people in the case, deputy director of social welfare Fung Pak-yan urged parents to be more caring towards their children and said the department would also continue promoting family education.

Polling is being staged in villages on five consecutive Saturdays and Sundays until February 4. There are about 170,000 registered electors and more than 1,600 candidates this year. A total of 995 candidates have been returned uncontested and 634 are competing for 325 seats.

Village head elections were not governed by any election laws in the past. And the elections were often plagued by gang fights and bribery. In 2002, the government stepped in and reformed the arrangements, with a new law enacted in 2003.