Coming From Separate Worlds in Taiwan, They Collided at California Church


David Chou and Pastor Billy Chang spent their entire lives forging parallel paths. They had been born in early Fifties Taiwan, grew up simply miles aside all over martial regulation and later rebuilt their lives in the US.

However over a number of many years, they carried with them hugely other reminiscences — and perspectives — of the island in their start.

Mr. Chou was once the son of fogeys who fled mainland China following the 1949 Communist revolution, a part of a mass exodus of Chinese language who established an authoritarian government-in-exile in Taiwan. Although he was once born at the island, he and his folks had been “mainlanders” dedicated to the Chinese language motherland and noticed Taiwan as perpetually a part of China.

Pastor Chang’s kin had been native Taiwanese who had spent centuries at the island. At house, he spoke Taiwanese Hokkien, a language that for many years was once banned in public areas. Pastor Chang grew to consider that regardless of Beijing’s longstanding claims, the self-ruled island had its personal identification, break free China.

In Might, the lives of the 2 males collided in a quiet retirement neighborhood in Southern California. Government say that Mr. Chou, 68 — armed with two weapons, 4 Molotov cocktails and a deep-seated rage towards Taiwanese other folks — opened fireplace throughout the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church as contributors accumulated in honor of Pastor Chang, 67.

The mass capturing was once a part of a spate of violence that has shocked the country in contemporary weeks. In the future prior to, a white 18-year-old fueled via racist hate killed 10 Black other folks at a Buffalo grocery retailer. Lower than two weeks later, an 18-year-old massacred 19 scholars and two academics at an fundamental faculty in Uvalde, Texas.

However the capturing within the church in Laguna Woods, Calif., stood out in its personal method, a variation on American tragedy that appeared to display how far off conflicts, even the ones within the far away previous, can reverberate within the gun tradition of the US.

On the Southern California church, a crowded Might 15 lunch party for Pastor Chang gave option to an eruption of gunfire. Mr. Chou fatally shot a physician, John Cheng, 52, who attempted to prevent him, police mentioned. Pastor Chang then threw a chair on the gunman, permitting others to subdue and tie him up with an extension wire. 5 congregants, ranging in age from 66 to 92, had been injured.

Mr. Chou is being held with out bail on fees of homicide and tried homicide pending an August arraignment.

As with inner tensions through the years in immigrant communities international — California’s Little Saigon and Miami’s Cuban-American precincts are two U.S. examples — the crime has echoed around the Taiwanese diaspora and underscored divisions that stay frozen in time, at the same time as more youthful generations have moved past them.

“How can we reconcile the perspectives of those identities?” mentioned Annie Wang, 42, a Northern California-based co-host of the podcast “Hearts in Taiwan,” noting that her folks spent years heading off communicate of the schisms associated with Taiwanese independence. “It’s been so at the back of closed doorways, however I will be able to’t see some way round this anymore. Any individual went and killed for this.”

The capturing has additionally deepened fears about protection in a time of emerging anti-Asian assaults in the US and underscored debates about get entry to to firearms and psychological well being services and products. Those that know Mr. Chou say he were unraveling for years and was once determined within the face of eviction, a loss of life spouse and fiscal troubles.

Rising up within the geographical region of central Taiwan within the Nineteen Sixties, Pastor Chang all the time felt at house at church. His father was once a Presbyterian pastor, and the congregation contributors, most commonly native Taiwanese farmers, would continuously carry the younger circle of relatives picks in their newest harvests: water spinach, cabbage and rice.

Outdoor of that neighborhood, Pastor Chang was once now not all the time proven such prefer. He was once a benshengren, a descendant of long-ago ethnic Chinese language settlers. His classmates whose households had simply fled the mainland, or waishengren, loved positive benefits he didn’t have.

Beneath the authoritarian rule of Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists, who misplaced the civil struggle to the Communists, mainlander households gained desire for civil servant jobs and authorities positions. Faculties had been required to show in Mandarin and advertise a Chinese language identification, whilst Taiwanese Hokkien was once forbidden in public areas. Over 4 many years, tens of 1000’s of people that dissented from the federal government’s insurance policies had been arrested, and a minimum of 1,000 — greater than part benshengren — had been achieved.

Pastor Chang mentioned he went via a “past due political awakening” within the Eighties whilst in seminary, devouring forbidden texts that mentioned this political repression and driven the theory of a definite Taiwanese identification. He joined massive protests to name for freedom of speech, the primary buds of a motion that may in the end result in democracy in Taiwan within the Nineties.

Pastor Chang emigrated to the US in 1991 following his folks and siblings, confident in his personal Taiwanese identification. He led a small church in Camarillo, Calif., prior to becoming a member of Irvine Presbyterian in 1999. Over the years, the congregation grew past 150 other folks and changed into the most important of about 40 legitimate Taiwanese Presbyterian congregations in the US.

Immigrants from Taiwan joined waves of Chinese language-speaking immigrants from mainland China and Hong Kong, they usually integrated each benshengren and waishengren. Through and big, they’ve all coexisted peacefully of their followed nation, and tensions over place of origin politics have hardly ever risen to the skin.

In the US, Taiwanese Presbyterian church buildings have develop into a social hub for older congregants to bond over their commonplace language and shared stories. At church bazaars, grandmothers and aunties prepare dinner loved Taiwanese snacks, together with sticky rice wrapped in bamboo leaves, and oyster pancakes.

“That’s what I consider church being: party and remembrance of your tradition,” mentioned Peggy Huang, 51, a Yorba Linda town councilwoman whose folks are contributors of the Laguna Woods church.

Whilst the church was once now not openly political, the conclusion in a separate Taiwanese identification suffused the establishment. In contrast to some Taiwanese-led church buildings that supply services and products in Mandarin or English, maximum Taiwanese Presbyterian church buildings in the US adhere to the Taiwanese language. Pastor Chang mentioned it stemmed in part from their view of Mandarin because the “language of the oppressors.”

Along with lectures on subjects like fighting dementia and property making plans, the Laguna Woods church has arranged talks at the 2/28 Incident, all over which the Nationalist authorities killed as much as 28,000 other folks in Taiwan within the past due Nineteen Forties. Throughout services and products, contributors continuously pray for Taiwan’s protection within the face of China’s emerging threats. Pastor Chang mentioned his congregation had little or no interplay with the waishengren in Laguna Woods, who most commonly attend a Mandarin-language church.

“It could be an overstatement to name us a pro-independence church,” Pastor Chang mentioned. “However we don’t deny that we like Taiwan.”

Mr. Chou grew up with the trimmings of a middle-class existence: He lived along with his 4 siblings in a modest, two-story concrete area within the central town of Taichung. As a result of his father was once an officer within the Nationalist military, his circle of relatives was once handled favorably and he attended some of the most sensible top faculties at the island.

However the waishengren neighborhood was once additionally steeped within the ache of getting to escape mainland China when Communists took over. And Mr. Chou many years later advised buddies he was once bullied and hit via the kids of longtime Taiwanese households. (The divide between the 2 communities nonetheless shapes politics in Taiwan, however political violence is uncommon.)

Buddies and kin of Mr. Chou had been seeking to make sense of the mass capturing. However the ones acquainted with his political leanings had been much less shocked.

Credit score…Orange County Sheriff’s Division, by means of Related Press

“In fact, we really feel unhealthy for the sufferers, however he did it for a explanation why,” mentioned James Tsai, a pal of Mr. Chou’s in Las Vegas, pointing to resentment fueled via the formative years bullying.

Like many waishengren of his technology, Mr. Chou held directly to a romanticized imaginative and prescient of China as a misplaced place of origin even after he moved in 1980 to the US, the place he labored within the hospitality trade.

Within the preface to a mixology e-book printed in 1994, Mr. Chou referred to as Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping “nice leaders” for making China filthy rich. He resented the emergence in Taiwan in contemporary many years of a Taiwanese identification break free China and rooted within the island’s democratic values. In a 2018 e-book, Mr. Chou referred to as benshengren “poisoned” rebels who had betrayed their Chinese language ancestors with their pro-independence perspectives.

Mr. Chou settled down in Las Vegas, the place he and his spouse purchased assets that they rented out to assist put their two sons via dentistry faculty. However Mr. Chou soured on the US in 2012 after he was once assaulted via a tenant over a hire dispute, in step with buddies and his 2018 e-book. The assault fueled what would develop into an obsession with weapons.

A number of contributors of the native Taiwanese Presbyterian Church and a Taiwanese social membership mentioned Mr. Chou mingled on occasion with the benshengren neighborhood at their occasions. Maximum had been blind to his political beliefs till 2019, when his photograph gave the impression in a piece of writing about an tournament hosted via a pro-China team.

“Unexpectedly get rid of the monsters of Taiwanese independence,” learn a banner that Mr. Chou delivered to the development.

In a phone interview, Jenny Koo, chairwoman of the group, mentioned she had met Mr. Chou handiest two times and that she remembered considering his political beliefs had been “too radical.”

It stays unclear why Mr. Chou focused the church in Laguna Woods. He has a brother who lives within the space, in step with buddies and his niece.

The police mentioned ultimate month that the gunman acted by myself when he chained, nailed and super-glued close the doorways to a multipurpose room prior to he opened fireplace on congregants. A number of days later, the Los Angeles place of job of the International Magazine, a Chinese language-language newspaper, mentioned that it had gained seven handwritten journals titled “Diary of an Independence-Destroying Angel” from Mr. Chou.

On Friday, Mr. Chou stood on the entrance of a cage, making fleeting eye touch with attendees at a listening to in a Santa Ana, Calif., court docket. He wore a blue surgical masks and a lime inexperienced jumpsuit used for inmates in protecting custody.

The Laguna Woods capturing got here as a surprise to many within the Taiwanese and Chinese language diaspora, specifically the ones in the more youthful technology who grew up in the US and felt little connection to decades-old grievances.

Ms. Wang, the podcast co-host, mentioned that as a kid, she struggled to know why her mom recognized as a Chinese language American, even if she spoke Taiwanese and her circle of relatives were in Taiwan for generations.

It was once now not till Ms. Wang, and a cousin, Angela Yu, started studying extra about Taiwan’s historical past that they understood the fraught nature of identification within the diaspora, and why their folks adhered to their Chinese language American identification whilst buddies’ folks emphasised being Taiwanese.

The cousins, who now establish as each Chinese language American and Taiwanese American, began their podcast to speak about those thorny problems.

“The time that our folks immigrated was once a freezing of identification, they usually handed the ones concepts about identification directly to their youngsters,” Ms. Wang mentioned.

She added that she was hoping the capturing would open the door for the diaspora to “talk extra overtly and truthfully” about those struggles.

Reflecting at the church disagreement, Pastor Chang sounded a word of resignation.

“The gunman and I, our technology, had the misfortune of being born all over a political technology that compelled our two teams not to get alongside,” he mentioned. “That’s the unique sin of our technology.”

Amy Qin reported from Taipei, Taiwan. Jill Cowan reported from Laguna Woods, Calif. and Santa Ana, Calif. Shawn Hubler reported from Sacramento. Amy Chang Chienreported from Taichung, Taiwan.



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