Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen took an early lead on Saturday in vote counting for a presidential election that will be closely watched by Beijing, which claims the democratic island as its own, in the shadow of anti-government protests in Hong Kong.One hour after polls closed at 4 p.m. (0800 GMT) Tsai led her main opponent Han Kuo-yu from the opposition Kuomintang party by more than 500,000 votes, according to an initial vote tally by three Taiwanese television stations.
Final results are expected by early Saturday evening. Tsai is due to hold a news conference at 8 p.m. (1200 GMT).China and the Hong Kong unrest have become major elements in the election as Beijing has ramped up efforts to get Taiwan to accept its rule, both through military intimidation and an offer of the “one country, two systems” model. “I saw what’s happening in Hong Kong and it’s horrible,” said first-time voter Stacey Lin, 20. “I just want to make sure I have the freedom to vote in the future.”
Speaking in Taipei, the capital, Lin said she had voted for President Tsai Ing-wen of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party. “She is the best among all the candidates to protect our democracy,” Lin added.