LAGUNA WOODS, California – Simply earlier than David Wenwei Chou glued and chained shut the doorways of California’s Geneva Presbyterian Church, then shot the aged congregants inside, he mailed his handwritten diaries to a Taiwanese newspaper.
He titled his screed: “Diary of an Angel of Destroying Independence” — referring to Taiwanese independence from China.
The rampage this previous Could left one particular person useless and 5 injured. It additionally uncovered how complicated Taiwanese and Chinese language identities are — and the way a flamable combination of political enmities imported by diaspora communities mixed with American gun tradition can show lethal.
At first, English-language protection mistakenly described Chou, the shooter, as a Chinese language immigrant. In reality, he was born in Taiwan to Chinese language dad and mom who left China following the tip of a brutal civil conflict in 1949 — a bunch of individuals in Taiwan referred to as waishengren, which means “exterior province folks.” Many waishengren have been a part of a mass exodus of Kuomingtang officers and their households, the political social gathering that misplaced to the Communist Get together that now governs from Beijing.
The Kuomingtang Get together anticipated and needed Taiwan to in the future turn out to be one nation with China. For a lot of waishengren, being affiliated with the then-ruling Kuomingtang additionally conferred privileges indigenous Taiwanese residents didn’t take pleasure in, however these privileges dwindled as Taiwan grew to become its personal democracy.
“So [waishengren] say wait a minute, we’ve these privileges earlier than, however how come we do not have them now? They begin to think about themselves of Chinese language, and that is why they arrive out with the thought to return out and kill the Taiwanese,” says Tony Lee, a Taiwanese-American activist in Los Angeles.
Even in California, waishengren immigrants and benshengren, or “native province folks” Taiwanese, maintain to one another. For instance, the church that Chou focused was recognized for its rich, pro-Taiwanese benshengren congregation.
Chou emigrated from Taiwan to america on the age of 1, and at first, he appeared to settle in to U.S. life. He earned a Taiwanese diploma in hospitality administration and wrote a guide on wine. However then, as his life and funds unraveled after a divorce, he started ranting to acquaintances about how a lot he resented Taiwan’s de facto independence.
“He was very agitated,” says Jenny Koo. “Each time he introduced up Taiwan independence he acquired very labored up. I simply thought it was not proper.”
Koo heads a Las Vegas department of the Peace and Reunification Society, which works for Taiwan’s unification with China. The group is carefully affiliated with the Chinese language Communist Get together in Beijing.
Chou, the shooter, tried to affix in 2019, and photos from a meal celebrating the society’s founding present him wearing a free button-down shirt toasting Koo and others.
I wish to convey my honest condolences on the dying of Dr. John Cheng & my hopes for a immediate restoration for these injured within the capturing on the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in California. Violence isn’t the reply.
— 蔡英文 Tsai Ing-wen (@iingwen) Could 17, 2022
Koo mentioned she did not let him be a part of, and he had confirmed as much as the meal with out being invited: “Our affiliation writes essays, however we respect the opposite aspect’s opinions. They aren’t monsters. However Chou demonized them. You could possibly inform from the language he used that he not noticed folks from Taiwan as folks.”
For some, immigrating to america generally is a contemporary begin: an opportunity to wipe the slate clear of Previous World grudges to stay merely as an American. For Chou, emigrating from Taiwan appeared solely to amplify historic divisions — a phenomenon Taiwanese author Leona Chen calls “the immigrant time capsule.”
“The very salient political conflicts and tensions skilled throughout martial regulation have been type of incubated and carried over by our dad and mom and grandparents’ era,” says Chen. “Then they only continued to remain that method at the same time as Taiwan has developed and altered and softened a few of these divisions.”
Chou, the shooter, is in police custody and has been charged with one depend of capital homicide and 5 counts of tried homicide. Dr. John Cheng, who died within the church assault, is remembered as a hero for charging Chou and serving to subdue him lengthy sufficient for the police to reach.
To date, there isn’t any indication of imminent conflict between China and Taiwan, however the casualties of this battle are already cropping up.