Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou yesterday threw his support behind Hong Kong's push for democracy, calling it a core value shared by Taiwanese people.
His support comes after Hong Kong pro-democracy activists launched an "era of civil disobedience" at a rally on Sunday - within hours of Beijing crushing hopes for full democracy.
"Democracy and rule of law is also the core value of people in Taiwan," said Ma, who was born in Kwong Wah Hospital, Kowloon, in 1950. The family moved to Taiwan the following year.
At a meeting of the ruling Kuomintang party, Ma, its chairman, added: "While keeping our concerns about the developments in Hong Kong, we'd also like to voice our support for the pursuit of democracy and rule of law by the people in Hong Kong."
Ma called for the authorities to open a dialogue with democracy advocates and respect the will of the majority of the people in the former British colony. "Only in this way will Hong Kong's social unrest be eased and long-term, stable support from the people of Hong Kong be secured," Ma said.
The National People's Congress Standing Committee said on Sunday that, while Hongkongers will be allowed to elect their next leader in 2017, candidates must win the backing of more than half the members of a pro-Beijing committee to stand.
The Democratic Progressive Party, Taiwan's main opposition, also voiced regret at the decision.
In Taipei, Hong Kong is considered a measure of Beijing's commitment to "one country, two systems" - its standing offer to Taiwan in the event of reunification. Beijing still considers Taiwan part of its territory awaiting reunification, even though the island has ruled itself for more than six decades since their split in 1949 after the civil war.
Ma Xiaoguang, of the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office, said: "It is wrong for a few people in Taiwan to try to use the [Standing Committee's] decision as a pretext to discredit the 'one country, two systems' policy, impair Hong Kong's prosperity and stability, and hinder development of cross-strait ties.
"This important legal decision is in line with the 'one country, two systems' policy and the Basic Law of the HKSAR. It also complies with the reality in the region and is supported and welcomed by the region's citizens."