THE votes of thousands of rural people will be decisive in determining the winner in the New Territories North constituency, say both candidates. Although the battle is between the pro-China Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong (DAB) and its rival, the Democratic Party, the candidates admit party banners are less important than support from the rural voters. The DAB's Cheung Hon-chung, who beat Democratic Party legislator Tik Chi-yuen in March's regional council election, was confident he could continue to count on support from the rural community. 'I have been visiting the rural communities at least twice a week for quite a long time - not only during election time,' said Mr Cheung. 'The villagers are familiar with me and it's natural they support my bid.' With solid support from the countryside, Mr Cheung and his allies scored more than 13,000 votes in the municipal council election in March while the two Democratic Party candidates won only 11,000. Mr Cheung, who joined the DAB in May, said the move had brought benefits and problems. 'Voters will have a better understanding of my political viewpoint and those who support the party will rally behind me,' he said. 'But it will also turn away some supporters who have an opinion about political parties.' His opponent Wong Sing-chi, of the Democratic Party, said he was fighting an uphill battle and it was important to mend ties with the rural areas. He said it was misleading to suggest his party was going to uproot the rights of indigenous villagers in the New Territories. 'We only want to grant equal rights to female villagers,' Mr Wong said. 'We do not support the waiving of their traditional rights.' He is planning to visit areas such as Shataukok, to establish direct contact with the voters. 'I think some of them will turn to us afterwards,' he said, adding that he was also depending on party heavyweights such as Martin Lee Chu-ming and Lau Chin-shek to woo undecided voters to his camp.