FBI opens hate crime investigation into shooting attack on Taiwanese Americans at Presbyterian church

The evidence that David Chou harbored animus against the Taiwanese was mounting.

The 68-year-old suspect in the shooting attack on a Taiwanese American congregation in south Orange County “was upset about the political tensions between China and Taiwan” and had left notes in his car indicating “his true hatred of the Taiwanese people.” ”. according to Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes.

Meanwhile, the FBI announced it had enough evidence to open a federal hate crime investigation to determine what charges could be brought against the suspected gunman after a Sunday afternoon attack in Laguna Woods killed one person and injured others. five.

Agents had “uncovered evidence that [Chou] it was motivated by some kind of hate,” said Kristi Johnson, deputy director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, speaking at a news conference Monday outside the Orange County sheriff’s office in Santa Ana.

All of the shooting victims are of Taiwanese descent and were meeting at Irvine’s Taiwan Presbyterian Church in space rented from Geneva Presbyterian Church at Laguna Woods.

Chou reportedly lived in Taiwan when he was young and indicated that he was not treated well there, Barnes said.

For Taiwan, and its diaspora, political tensions with China have loomed over the island for decades. China regards Taiwan, a democracy, as a renegade province that needs to be returned to the mainland. Most countries, including the US, do not have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, although the Department of State says it “has a strong unofficial relationship” with the island.

China has intensified its claim to Taiwan over the last century. The island used to be ruled by the Nationalists, who had fled to the island from China after being defeated by the Communist Party in 1949. The Nationalists led the Kuomintang party, which kept Taiwan under martial law until 1987.

Taiwan is now ruled by the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, which the Communist Party regards as anathema. Beijing would prefer to work with the Kuomintang, now the main opposition party.

Scholars who follow China-Taiwan relations, such as Lev Nachman, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard’s Fairbanks Center for China Studies, immediately noted that the target was a Presbyterian church.

Church ties to the Taiwanese independence movement

Nachman said the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan, and among Taiwanese Americans, is known for supporting the pro-independence movement.

When Taiwan was under martial law, Presbyterian church leaders helped hide democracy advocates challenging the authoritarian state under the then-ruling Kuomintang.

“When Taiwanese people started fleeing to the United States, Taiwanese Presbyterian churches became these community centers for the cause of American independence,” Nachman said. “These Presbyterian churches became the base of operations for many independence movements.”

Nachman said that financial support from church members in the US went to the Democratic Progressive Party in Taiwan and increased after martial law was lifted.

Authorities did not say why Chou had traveled from Las Vegas to Laguna Woods, a retirement community about 20 miles southeast of Anaheim, without stopping by other Taiwanese American churches in between.

With the investigation into the shooting pending and important details about the suspect’s motives and background still missing, Taiwan-China watchers cautioned against extrapolating a political narrative from a single tragedy.

A Taiwan-versus-China narrative may stoke Sinophobia, already widespread in right-wing circles, that is dangerous for Asian Americans who have seen a rise in violent attacks, according to Jessica Drun, a DC non-resident fellow. with Atlantic. Council China Global Center.

“How do you frame this discussion so that it doesn’t spill over and hurt the AAPI community at large?” Drun asked. “And how not to demonize Chinese Americans?”

Drun said he sees China as a strategic competitor of the US and wants to promote US-Taiwan relations, but added that there must be political nuances in discussing relations across the Taiwan Strait and Taiwanese identity.

“Fundamentally, I think people who are trying to do it in black and white wouldn’t even be able to tell Taiwanese Americans from Chinese Americans,” Drun said.

Nachman was also concerned that the history of the region would be lost among those eager to vilify China.

“There’s going to be a huge push for people to frame this as [China] versus Taiwan, locating itself in American politics,” Nachman said.

Do you have any questions about the Asian-American communities of Southern California?

Josie Huang reports on the intersection of being Asian and American and the impact of those growing communities in Southern California.


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