BEIJING — Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen isn't mincing her words about the dangers looming for the self-ruled island.

With less than a week to go until an election day that could prove pivotal in determining the trajectory of relations with China, the independence-leaning Tsai released a video in which she presents a choice between a vibrant democracy — Taiwan today — and "dictatorship," represented by a photo of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The video, which is posted on YouTube as coming from "Little Ing," begins with a young man playing video games in a dark living room, a young woman chatting online in an Internet cafe, a tired young woman sleeping on the last subway train home — the kinds of things that parents often fret about.

"You used to be worried," the mellifluous-voiced narrator says, "but in this [last] year you have started to cherish this quiet life."

Cutting to pictures showing young people running through underpasses, walking through subway stations or hanging out on busy shopping streets, the voice-over continues: "A few hundred kilometers away, countless young people are being arrested every day, are being detained and being abused, being disappeared."

The scenes are all from Taiwan, an island of 24 million people that has plowed its own path since the nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) fled China after being defeated by the Communist Party in 1949. Since then, Taiwan has metamorphosed into a rowdy democracy, while China has resolutely remained a one-party state.

But the message is not about Taiwan. It's about Hong Kong. The territory off China's southern coast was supposed to retain a degree of autonomy for 50 years after its 1997 return from Britain to China, under the "one country, two systems" agreement.

Xi's encroaching control, however, has made many Hong Kongers fear their relative freedoms are already being taken away from them, sending millions out onto the streets to protest for the past seven months.

Tsai, who was trailing badly in the polls only a year ago, has experienced a sharp turnaround in her fortunes, partly because the situation in Hong Kong offers a premonition of what could happen if Taiwan agreed to a similar deal with Beijing.

Tsai's Democratic Progressive Party leans toward independence while not fully embracing it, and the KMT has traditionally favored closer ties with the mainland.

The KMT candidate in Saturday's presidential election, Han Kuo-yu, has had to back away from that as the "Hong Kong effect" has permeated Taiwan.

Still, Tsai looks set for a huge victory Saturday, according to the last polls published before the 10-day pre-election blackout.

In a survey by cable news station TVBS, 45 percent of respondents said they would vote for Tsai, compared with only 29 percent expressing support for Han. Nineteen percent of respondents were undecided, and 7 percent said they would vote for a third candidate, James Soong. A poll published by Apple Daily found Tsai had an even bigger advantage, giving her 49 percent support over Han's 15 percent.

Taiwan's elections are notable for being noisy and creative, and Tsai has happily played into this by playfully harnessing her cat-lady persona. The 63-year-old famously has two cats, Think Think and Ah Tsai, and adopted three retired guide dogs after becoming president in 2016.

Supporters wear T-shirts calling Tsai a "slave to cats." A huge billboard has gone up in Taipei showing Tsai, holding Think Think, under a banner that says "Sensible tax cuts." A speech bubble above the feline says "Buy me food."

Voters have seen many videos in the final months of the campaign, but this one caused ripples because of how starkly it holds up Hong Kong as an example of the kind of future that Taiwan could face if it agreed to closer ties with China.

"This year, we finally witnessed the true color of dictatorship," the narrator says as the screen shows a man reading a newspaper with the headline "Cracking down on Xinjiang Uighur Muslims," a reference to Xi's campaign of repression and reeducation in western China, which has been widely condemned by many Western countries.

This comes right after clips of American representatives, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Vice President Pence, criticizing China and supporting Taiwan. "We've stood by Taiwan," Pence says in the clip, from a speech he gave at the Wilson Center in Washington.

Returning to scenes of people going about their daily lives — including using water trucks to water plants, rather than hosing down protesting citizens — the ad continues its theme.

"No matter the differences between us, we all love the quiet life here," the video continues. "We still love this country with its democracy and its freedom. Now it's our turn to speak. The whole world is watching how Taiwan makes its voice heard."

Moving to scenes reminiscent of Hong Kong, but on a peaceful day, the video shows young people looking directly into the camera, including a man in a hoodie and a face mask standing on an overpass, a scene that could be Taipei or Hong Kong.

"Please take another look at our children. The answer is in their eyes," the narrator says. "We choose to stand together with democracy. We choose to stand together with freedom."

The elections, for president and seats in the parliament, will be held Saturday, with results due late that night.