A deadly shooting in southern California has sent shock waves throughout Taiwan.
On Sunday, 40 members of the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church had gathered in Laguna Woods for a luncheon in honor of Pastor Billy Chang (張承宗), when David Wenwei Chou (周文偉), 68, allegedly entered the church and opened fire, killing one churchgoer and injuring five others.
As the church has long backed Taiwan’s independence from China, law enforcement officials suspect Chou targeted it out of anger over its stance.
Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said that Chou had notes in his car that said he “was upset about political tensions between China and Taiwan,” and harbored “hatred of the Taiwanese people.”
Internet users have accused Chou of involvement in the Las Vegas branch of the National Association for China’s Peaceful Unification (NACPU), while a media report said he attended the group’s founding in 2019 and was an outspoken supporter of former Kaohsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜).
President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) office issued a statement on Tuesday saying she condemned “any form of violence,” while the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) expressed a similar stance in a Facebook post.
Asked about Chou’s actions, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin (汪文斌) said: “We hope the US government will take effective measures to resolve the worsening gun violence issue at home.”
The incident has highlighted China’s grand unification propaganda, social divisions between pro-China and pro-Taiwan supporters, and the hazards of “red infiltration” and organizations backed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Over the past few years, as China has ratcheted up its aggression toward Taiwan, tensions between pro-China and pro-Taiwan supporters have mounted. Tensions might have peaked when the KMT’s Beijing-friendly Han ran for president in 2020.
As Han lost by a wide margin and his recall in Kaohsiung sent the KMT into a tailspin of consecutive election losses, frustration might have morphed into hatred among unification supporters such as Chou, who might have seen violent “revolution” as the only path toward change.
On a deeper level, Chou’s alleged hate crime was born out of Chinese nationalism. China hates and envies Western countries, making it want to defeat the West. It considers Taiwan’s “modern” values — freedom, democracy and human rights — as symbols of the West. It views Taiwan as an entryway for “Western imperialism” and opposition to China.
This is twisted logic more akin to fascism during World War II. To facilitate unification and bring about the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese race,” it is necessary to annihilate the “dissidents,” and “liberate” Taiwan through force and violence.
While the victims of the church shooting are Taiwanese, they are also 100 percent American. Previously, Americans might have thought that Chinese propaganda only affected freedom of speech — for example, companies should not criticize the Chinese government if they want access to the Chinese market. Americans now realize that Chinese ideology can erode their democracy and threaten their lives.
Taiwan and the US should use this opportunity to step up the investigation of CCP-backed unification organizations, hate speech and red infiltration. As a conduit for Chinese propaganda and even espionage, front organizations such as the NACPU have been set up around the world to advance the CCP’s political agenda and malignant influence.
If the government does not implement harsher punishments for espionage and continues to turn a blind eye toward unification organizations and hate speech, some other shooter could emerge and instigate another tragic incident.
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