Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has voiced support for democratic movements in Hong Kong on a number of occasions since taking office. Photo: Reuters

Public support for Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen and for the country to become an independent nation have seen an upswing.

A recent poll by a local think tank has even predicted a victory for Tsai in January’s presidential election, saying she will win 20% more of the ballot than Kaohsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu, who is fielded by the opposition Kuomintang Party.

A survey by the Taiwan New Constitution Foundation showed Tsai would win 51% of the vote against 31% for Han, and if Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je throws his hat into the ring, Tsai would still come out on top in the three-way race, garnering about 42% of the vote against Han’s 26% and Ko’s 23%.

Tsai’s approval rating also rose to 43.7%, from 33.8% in the May survey. The survey also found that more than 80% of respondents regarded Taiwan as a sovereign, independent nation.

The survey was conducted last week through telephone interviews of 1,068 Taiwanese voters aged 20 or more.

Tsai, in defiance of Beijing, has demonstrated her will and resolve, said a report about the survey’s findings, and the situation in Hong Kong and Beijing’s war rhetoric, as well as a travel ban, will only help Tsai garner even more support.

The protracted demonstrations in Hong Kong against a China extradition bill continues to rattle the city, amid Beijing’s threats to deploy its troops to quash the unrest. Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed to take back Taiwan in a high-profile speech earlier this year and a recent white paper on China’s defense has also restated the “iron-fisted resolve” to reunite the island, by force if necessary.

Beijing has also abruptly banned its residents from visiting the island under an “individual visit scheme” previously agreed upon by the governments on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

The Hong Kong lesson and threats from the Chinese military are cited by many respondents as key factors when they cast vote for Tsai, as the KMT’s candidate has not shown his will and capability to defend Taiwan and reject Beijing foisting the “one country, two systems” arrangement on the island.

Hung Chin-fu, a political science professor at the National Cheng Kung University, told the Liberty Times that Beijing’s bullying and suppression and the chaos in Hong Kong would only serve to strengthen “Taiwanese consciousness” among voters.

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