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Taiwan Shows Support for Hong Kong Democracy

Director of Hong Kong Economic, Trade and Cultural Office, John Leung, center left, listens to Hong Kong student demonstrators, supporting pro-democracy protests taking place in Hong Kong, at the Hong Kong Economic, Trade and Cultural Office in Taipei, Ta

In Taipei, hundreds of people held a sympathy demonstration in support of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong Sunday. Taiwan's leaders have also publicly renewed support for the Hong Kong activists. China's president recently provoked irritation in Taiwan by suggesting that the self-ruled island be governed the same way Beijing now runs Hong Kong. China considers Taiwan a renegade province that should be brought back under its rule.

Taiwan’s government has expressed regret over the clashes in Hong Kong Sunday, where thousands of protesters occupied the financial district to push for universal suffrage in the former British colony.

During an interview with Al-Jazeera television Sunday, President Ma Ying-jeou said he was worried about Hong Kong and touted Taiwan as the only Chinese democracy. He rejected the mainland Communist leadership’s proposal.

He told Al-Jazeera that if Hong Kong can attain universal suffrage, it is very meaningful for Hong Kong and mainland China, especially for mainland China’s international image. He added that Taiwan has said very clearly it does not support China's one country, two systems model. He said a good system would only be one side, one system.

According to analysts in Taipei, support for Hong Kong’s democracy movement may have strengthened after Chinese President Xi Jinping told a visiting Taiwanese delegation that Taiwan should consider accepting the same one country, two systems model. Raymond Wu, managing director of Taipei-based political risk consultancy e-telligence, said Beijing does not understand.

“It is obviously a gap between the perception in Beijing and the reality here of Taiwan. Just in a very generic way, the pursuit of freedom and democracy, if that’s what the Hong Kong people support, should be something all the neighboring countries pay close attention to,” said Wu.

Taiwan has ruled itself since the 1940s, when the Nationalist government lost the Chinese civil war to the Communists and re-established itself in Taipei. Since President Ma took office in 2008, leaders in Taiwan and China have set aside political hostilities to talk for the first time. Those talks have spawned more than 20 agreements beneficial to Taiwan’s export-reliant economy.

Beijing extended the “one country, two systems” model to Hong Kong in 1997, placing the territory under Chinese rule but giving it economic and political autonomy for 50 years. Now Hong Kong democracy activists want universal voting rights for the region’s chief executive in 2017 and its legislature in 2020.

But China said earlier this month it is unwilling to allow open elections. It wants a 1,200-person nominating panel, which has many pro-Beijing loyalists, to pre-select any candidates for chief executive.

The Taiwan government’s Mainland Affairs Council said Friday it cannot support the “one country, two systems” style of rule proposed by Beijing. It said that more than 70 percent of Taiwan's public opposes that model of government.