TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan's opposition leader and presidential frontrunner on Sunday called on China to respect the island's democratic process and said she believes Beijing will have a "rational attitude" when dealing with her independence-leaning party.
Tsai Ing-wen, chairwoman of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), made the comments in the first live, televised presidential debate with three weeks to go before Taiwan votes in a new president and parliament.
Tsai, with a double-digit percentage lead in opinion polls, has tread carefully in discussing how she will engage China if the DPP returns to power as it is likely to next year. The DPP has traditionally favored the island's formal independence and says it believes only Taiwan's people can decide its future. Beijing takes this to mean it wants independence.
China, which considers Taiwan a renegade province and part of its territory, will be watching the election outcome closely.
"I believe China will uphold a rational attitude to interact with the DPP," Tsai said during the debate, the first of two that will be held before the Jan. 16, 2016, vote.
She said that political party rotation is part of Taiwan's democratic society. China's leaders should "recognize this is the reality of Taiwan's democratic way of life and give it certain respect."
Tsai is one of three presidential contenders, which also include Eric Chu, chairman of the ruling Nationalist party, and James Soong, chairman of the People First Party.
Reporting by J.R. Wu; Editing by Jacqueline Wong