The Presbyterian Church in Taiwan and academics yesterday said the shooting at a church in Laguna Woods, California, on Sunday involving Taiwanese-Americans was a hate crime, and called for an investigation into links between the suspect and pro-China groups in Taiwan and the US.
The shooting is related to hate speech disseminated by pro-China groups, so the government must act to prevent them from taking advantage of the nation’s democratic system and freedom of speech to incite hostility and violence, Presbyterian Church in Taiwan officials told a news conference at the Che-Lam Presbyterian Church (濟南教會) in Taipei yesterday.
“Taiwan’s national identity conflict between people who identify as Taiwanese and those who identify as Chinese has spread overseas. We must deal with this serious division of national identity among different ethnic groups,” the church said in a statement read by Presbyterian Church in Taiwan director-general Chen Hsin-liang (陳信良).
Church officials were joined by members of the Taiwan Association of University Professors (TAUP), Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政) and Wu Cheng (吳崢), one of the leaders of the 2014 Sunflower movement, in calling on the government to “clamp down on Chinese proxies and agitators in Taiwan.”
Citing media reports, documents and evidence provided by Laguna Woods authorities and Taiwanese-Americans in the US, TAUP chairman Hsu Wen-tang (許文堂) said that the 68-year-old shooting suspect, David Wenwei Chou (周文偉), was a second-generation waishengren (外省人), a term referring to people who fled to Taiwan with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) in 1949 after its defeat in the Chinese Civil War.
He was born in Taiwan to parents from China, grew up in a military dependents’ village and was a lecturer at several universities in Taiwan, Hsu said.
Officials and academics at the news conference discussed photographs and meeting records, showing that Chou was at the founding of the Las Vegas Chinese for Peaceful Unification group in 2019, and became one of its board members. The group is a local branch of the National Association for China’s Peaceful Unification (NACPU), which falls under China’s United Front Work Department.
There are also photographs showing Chou attending a gathering with Las Vegas Chinese for Peaceful Unification members for KMT presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) in 2019, at which he pointed to a banner written in Chinese calling for “fervent support for Han” and the “annihilation of separatist demons.”
Hsu said the US government has designated NACPU a Chinese proxy organization.
“NACPU members have entered Taiwan multiple times in the past,” he said, urging the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) to verify such links and ban NACPU members from entering Taiwan.
Taiwanese civil society organizations have supported the Washington-based Formosan Association for Public Affairs in calling on US authorities to prosecute the shooting as a politically motivated hate crime, and to “label any groups Chou is affiliated with as domestic terrorists.”
Hsu and Presbyterian Church in Taiwan officials also demanded that MOFA and the Overseas Community Affairs Council investigate whether any government agencies are funding overseas organizations such as the NACPU.
They said an NACPU delegation visited Taiwan in 2017, and held meetings with several groups, so the National Security Bureau should probe possible links between pro-China organizations in Taiwan and any groups controlled by the United Front Work Department.
The also urged the Executive Yuan and Legislative Yuan to amend relevant laws to punish people acting as proxies of foreign states more harshly to safeguard national security.
Hate crime must be dealt with, Hsu said, asking Washington not to allow people affiliated with the NACPU or those engaged in “united front” work for China to apply for US residency.
Chen said that the conflict between people who identify as Taiwanese and those who identify as Chinese has only become more complicated.
“It is because the Constitution does not reflect Taiwan’s current political situation. Therefore, we must draft a new Constitution that conforms to Taiwan’s current reality, to end people’s confusion about national identity,” Chen said.
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