Incumbent Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen won reelection Saturday by a substantial margin, sending a message to China that most of the island would like to remain independent.
Tsai ran on a message of maintaining and strengthening the island’s sovereignty as Beijing beefs up efforts to bring it under its control.
Her main opponent, Han Kuo-yu, ran on an opposite platform: strengthening the island’s relations with authorities in Beijing.
He gained only 38.6 percent of the vote to Tsai’s 57.1 percent, the BBC reported.
“With each presidential election, Taiwan is showing the world how much we cherish our democratic way of life,” Tsai said at a news conference in Taipei, according to The New York Times. “We must work to keep our country safe and defend our sovereignty.”
The island’s status as a nation is a matter of international disagreement. China considers it a Chinese territory with an illegitimate independent government. The United Nations and the U.S. consider it a sovereign country.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has said that the island’s unification with China is inevitable and has attempted to court Taiwanese officials to work in China in an effort to destabilize Tsai’s influence. The polling numbers suggest those moves are not popular among the Taiwanese electorate.
The vote came after months of violent protests in Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous territory that also seeks more independence from mainland China.