Police arrest 27 men for unlawful assembly on the final day of voting in the controversial system to pick rural leaders The final day of voting in the controversial 'two heads' village elections was marred by an ugly show of force in the New Territories yesterday. Police arrested 27 men - most of them wearing red T-shirts and claiming to be supporters of indigenous candidate Tang Chin-pang - for unlawful assembly. The incident happened just before 2.30pm when more than 10 cars drove up to Pak Kam College, a polling station in Ping Shan Nam Pak Road, Ping Shan. Forty men, all dressed in red T-shirts, got out of the vehicles and began shouting and screaming as they marched up to the polling station, where Mr Tang and Tang Kam-hing were contesting to represent indigenous villagers of Hung Uk Tsuen. Supporters of Tang Kam-hing called police, complaining that the men were using abusive language and upsetting voters. Anti-triad officers from Yuen Long arrived and rounded up 27 men, aged between 18 and 28. A police spokeswoman said the suspects were held for unlawful assembly and wound be detained overnight. Tang Chin-pang, 52 - who has served as village head for eight years - was re-elected after winning by 63 votes to 57. He failed to persuade police not to take away his supporters and was invited to Yuen Long police station to help police with their investigation. Police said they had been monitoring Ping Shan throughout the election. The 'two-head' system has been bitterly opposed by indigenous villagers - those who can trace their roots back to 1898. Under the new electoral system, indigenous villagers elect one representative and the entire village population chooses a second one. Previously a single village head was chosen to represent indigenous villagers. The changes were imposed after the Court of Final Appeal ruled that denying non-native villagers the right to vote was a denial of their human rights. In the 1999 village elections the home of Chan Hoi-kwan, chief of Shun Ching San Tsuen, was the target of a petrol-bomb attack just a few hours before he was due to vote. And during the same elections, more than 500 suspected members of the 14K triads arrived in trucks outside the Yuen Long District Office during the election of the Ping Shan rural committee chairman. The bombing incident later led to the arrest of 45 people suspected to be involved in triad intimidation of voters. Such incidents in 1999 led the government to review the electoral arrangements for village elections, which are exempt from anti-bribery legislation. Mr Justice Woo Kwok-hing, the chairman of the Electoral Affairs Commission, sought to play down the incident yesterday, saying it had neither obstructed the electoral process nor dampened voters' intentions. 'Strictly speaking, the incident was unrelated to our elections. It happened outside the polling station and the no-canvassing zone. It has not affected voters casting their votes,' he said. Secretary for Home Affairs Patrick Ho Chi-ping said: 'This is an individual case and fortunately it has not hampered the elections. Police have been very pro-active this time and got things under control.' A total of 53,248 voters have cast their ballots on 12 polling days conducted over the past six weekends, with the turnout rate reaching 73.84 per cent, the highest in Hong Kong electoral history. According to the government, at least 320 complaints have been received, ranging from alleged criminal damage to false claims. Of the total 1,480 seats up for grabs, 931 were returned uncontested, with a further 189 seats either having no candidates or lacking enough electors. The elections covered the remaining 360 seats in 283 villages, attracting 707 candidates. Dr Ho described the process as a milestone in village representative elections. Referring to the bitter disputes in resolving the electoral arrangements with the villagers, he said: 'Today is a historic moment. It shows that our efforts in respecting the rule of law as well as preserving social harmony have not been wasted.' Mr Justice Woo rejected claims that the complaint figures were particularly high and compared them with the 1,000-plus cases received in the last District Council elections in 1999.