The shooter who targeted the Taiwanese American worshipers was from Taiwan. why is it complex

After law enforcement officials held a news conference about Sunday’s shooting attack on a Taiwanese-American congregation in south Orange County, a narrative began to emerge.

Authorities said the suspected gunman, David Chou, was a Chinese immigrant upset about the political situation between China and Taiwan. The physical and digital evidence investigators say they collected indicates Chou hates Taiwanese and identifies with China, which claims the island as part of the mainland even though it is a self-governing democracy.

But birth and identification records, submitted to Taiwanese authorities by the 68-year-old Chou himself, show that he was born and raised in Taiwan and did not move to the United States until he was an adult. Even after becoming a US citizen, he maintained his Taiwanese citizenship and last renewed his passport in 2012, according to the senior official at Taiwan’s diplomatic office in Los Angeles.

“It’s an official record,” said Louis Huang, Director General of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Los Angeles. “It’s not what he said. It is what is on paper.”

However, how Chou identifies himself is another matter.

“He probably considers himself Chinese, born in Taiwan,” Huang said, based on news reports.

why is it complex

The complexity and contradictions of Taiwanese identity are difficult to immediately grasp outside the diaspora, but it is important to recognize them in a shooting case that can easily be mistaken for just a story of the Chinese attacking the Taiwanese on American soil.

The fact is that the Taiwanese do not agree among themselves on how to deal with China. Some believe that Taiwan is part of China, others want to be independent, but the the vast majority just want the status quo — occupying a liminal political space where it operates as a country even though most of the world, including the US, does not recognize it as such.

Chou, whose appearance has been postponed from Tuesday to June 10, belongs to an older generation of Taiwanese, many of whom feel strong ties to China. Huang said Chou’s father was an immigrant from China who came to Taiwan after World War II. He would have been part of a wave of transplants that followed Chiang Kai-shek and the nationalists who had been expelled from the mainland by Mao Zedong’s communists.

Headshot of a middle-aged Taiwanese man wearing a blue blazer and yellow tie.

Louis Huang is director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Los Angeles.

(Courtesy of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office)

For decades, there has been tension, even violence, between so-called waishengren who came with Chiang and the benshengrenethnic Chinese who had lived in Taiwan for generations and bore the brunt of martial law imposed by the nationalist party known as the Kuomintang.

But Huang, who has worked for the Taiwanese government in the US for more than three decades, said he had never seen this kind of conflict between Taiwanese like the church shooting in the sleepy Laguna Woods retirement community.

“According to my memory and knowledge, it is the first time,” Huang said. “But there are always extremists in any society.”

He urged Taiwanese Americans not to lose their confidence in the rule of law and said his office is there to support parishioners, many of them elderly immigrants affected by a mass shooting that is virtually unheard of in Taiwan, where civilians do not own weapons.

What we know about Chou

A patchy profile of Chou’s life in Taiwan before he moved to the US is emerging. Huang said Chou had completed the mandatory military service required for Taiwanese men over the age of 20. Chou went on to teach at a private university in New Taipei City called Fu Jen Catholic. University for a period of 18 years, although Huang said it is not known if it was for consecutive years. Huang said Chou has also published books, including one focused on cocktails.

It is not clear when Chou immigrated to the US, but signs indicate that he remained connected to Taiwan. In addition to keeping his Taiwanese passport up to date, Chou, according to Taiwanese media, was active in a Chinese-backed group that opposed Taiwan independence.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department issued a statement acknowledging that Chou was born in Taiwan.

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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