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Taiwan's president condemns California church shooting

Taiwan's president condemns California church shooting

Mourners leave flowers outside the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California on May 15, 2022, after a fatal shooting. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

TAIPEI: Taiwan’s president has condemned the shooting at a Taiwanese church in California by a man reportedly driven by hatred of the island, while a lawmaker from her ruling party questioned whether Chinese propaganda was a motivating factor behind the violence.

President Tsai Ing-wen's office issued a statement on Tuesday (May 17) saying she condemned “any form of violence", extended her condolences to those killed and injured and had asked the island’s chief representative in the US to fly to California to provide assistance.

David Chou, 68, of Las Vegas, was expected to appear in California state court on Tuesday on suspicion of murder and attempted murder.

Police said he hid firebombs before Sunday's shooting at a gathering of mostly elderly Taiwanese parishioners at the church in Orange County outside Los Angeles. One man was killed and five people wounded, the oldest 92. A federal hate crimes investigation is also ongoing.

Orange County Sheriff's Sergeant Scott Steinle displays a photo of Dr John Cheng, who was killed in a shooting at Geneva Presbyterian Church, at a news conference in Santa Ana, California, on May 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Jae C Hong)
Jason Aguilar (left), a senior pastor at Arise Church, comforts Billy Chang, a 67-year-old Taiwanese pastor who survived a shooting at Geneva Presbyterian Church. (AP Photo/Jae C Hong)
An Orange County Sheriff's Department K-9 unit checks the grounds at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California, on May 15, 2022, after a fatal shooting. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Chou, who he said was born in China and is a US citizen, apparently had a grievance with the Taiwanese community, police said.

Chou was born in Taiwan in 1953, Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported, citing the head of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Los Angeles, Taiwan’s de-facto consulate in the city.

According to Taiwanese media, Chou had ties to a Chinese-backed organisation opposed to Taiwan’s independence, although details could not immediately be confirmed.

China claims Taiwan as its own territory to be annexed by force if necessary and regularly denounces Tsai, her ruling Democratic Progressive Party and their foreign supporters in increasingly violent terms.

Tensions between China and Taiwan are at the highest in decades, with Beijing stepping up its military harassment by flying fighter jets toward the self-governing island.

In Taiwan, DPP legislator Lin Ching-yi said “ideology has become a reason for genocide” in a message on her Facebook page.

Lin said Taiwanese need to “face up to hateful speech and organisations” backed by China’s ruling Communist Party, singling out the United Front Work Department that seeks to advance China's political agenda in Taiwan and among overseas Chinese communities.

The US is Taiwan's chief political and military ally although it does not extend the island formal diplomatic ties in deference to Beijing.

Bi-khim Hsiao, Taiwan's de-facto ambassador, on Monday tweeted that she was “shocked and saddened by the fatal shooting at the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in California."

“I join the families of the victims and Taiwanese American communities in grief and pray for the speedy recovery of the wounded survivors," Hsiao wrote.

Chou’s hatred toward the island, documented in hand-written notes that authorities found, appears to have begun when he felt he was not treated well while living there.

A former neighbour said Chou’s life unravelled after his wife left him and his mental health had been in decline.

Chou's family appeared to be among the roughly 1 million refugees from mainland China who moved to Taiwan at around the time of the Communist sweep to power on the mainland in 1949.

The former Japanese colony had only been handed over to Nationalist Chinese rule in 1945 at the end of World War II, and relations between mainlanders and native Taiwanese were often tense.

The Presbyterian Church is the most prominent of the Christian dominations in Taiwan and was closely identified with the pro-democracy movement under decades of martial law era and later with the Taiwan independence cause.
Source: AP/aj


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