Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen on Tuesday hit out at the live-fire shooting of protesters by police in Hong Kong, amid growing public support on the democratic island for her support for anti-government protests in the former British colony.
"We were very sorry to see the situation that occurred yesterday," Tsai told journalists. "The Hong Kong government has responded to the people's demands for freedom and democracy with bullets."
"They should give more serious consideration to those demands, communicate with the people, and allow the people of Hong Kong more freedom and more democracy," said Tsai, who is currently on the campaign trail to seek re-election in 2020.
Premier Su Tseng-chang said the shooting of unarmed protesters showed that Beijing's commitment to the "one country, two systems" model under which Hong Kong was promised a high degree of autonomy and the maintenance of a separate jurisdiction and its traditional freedoms, had changed.
"I have been watching the Hong Kong police use tear gas and even live ammunition to fight unarmed civilians, young people and students for a long time now," Su said.
"The unbelievable things we have seen in the media coverage have caused huge concern around the world, and has also opened the eyes of the people of Taiwan," he said.
"We can see all too clearly that this is how the people are treated under Chinese rule, under the so-called 'one country, two systems'," he said. "The promise that nothing would change for 50 years has now been changed, so the people of Taiwan should beware, especially when voting in the forthcoming elections."
Tsai and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) are currently leading in the opinion polls, with 53.6 percent of support compared with 32.8 percent support for opposition nationalist KMT candidate Han Kuo-yu.
Fan Shiping, a professor of political science at Taiwan National Normal University, said the Hong Kong protest movement, which was sparked by now withdrawn plans by the city government to allow extradition to mainland China, has boosted support for Tsai.
Protecting Taiwan's sovereignty and democracy
Tsai is currently seen as the candidate most capable of protecting the island's sovereignty and democratic way of life from increasingly vocal claims of ownership and the threat of annexation by China, Fan said.
"It seems that Tsai Ing-wen is now seen as being more capable of handling cross-strait relations [with China] than Han Kuo-yu," he said.
Chinese president Xi Jinping said in a Jan. 2 speech that Taiwan must be "unified" with China. The People's Liberation Army (PLA) echoed the sentiment in a military white paper in July.
Tsai has repeatedly responded that Taiwan's 23 million population have no wish to give up their sovereignty.
Taiwan was ruled as a Japanese colony in the 50 years prior to the end of World War II, but was handed back to the 1911 Republic of China under the Kuomintang (KMT) government as part of Tokyo's post-war reparation deal.
It has never been controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, nor formed part of the People's Republic of China.
The Republic of China is already a sovereign and independent state which has controlled the islands of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu since the KMT fled to the island after losing the civil war to Mao Zedong's communists in China.
"Of course, Xi Jinping's proposal [to rule Taiwan under] 'one country, two systems' this year has made the Taiwanese people feel more threatened," Fan said.
"So now Tsai Ing-wen is seen as a defender, with the ability to handle cross-strait relations and defend our sovereignty."
Taiwan began a transition to democracy following the death of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek's son, President Chiang Ching-kuo, in January 1988, starting with direct elections to the legislature in the early 1990s and culminating in the first direct election of a president, Lee Teng-hui, in 1996.
Reported by Hsia Hsiao-hwa for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Chung Kuang-cheng for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.