LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — A week after a fatal shooting at a Taiwanese church in Southern California, the Taiwanese community here in Las Vegas is still processing the trauma and the fact that the alleged shooter was someone they took in their circles, despite political differences.
“God will be with you,” Esther Pan said. “For the people of Taiwan, wherever you are in the world, you are one of us. God will bless you.”
Speaking in his native language, Pan, a member of the Taiwanese Valley Presbyterian Church, imparts his Christian faith. Her Taiwanese is a language she is proud to speak.
” I went home. I am in a house,” she said.
As president of the Taiwanese Association of Las Vegas, Pan and other members come from a group that lived in Taiwan when it was under martial law from 1949 to 1987. They were forbidden to speak the language in public, with the authoritarian government of the time forcibly approving a Chinese identity.
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“That’s when we really realized we were Taiwanese because we felt it in ourselves,” she said.
Taiwan finally democratized after 1987 with two political camps: one favoring reunification with China, while the other favoring its independence.
What saddened the community was one person they welcomed into their circles, David Chou of Las Vegas was arrested for shooting at a Taiwanese Presbyterian church in Southern California in what police are calling political motivations and a possible hate crime. Five people were injured and one man, Dr John Cheng, was killed trying to stop the shooting.
Pan and others said they did not want their faces filmed for fear of reprisals. She says Chou was friendly with the members, but openly said he had pro-unification views and felt “Chinese.” China still claims Taiwan as its own territory. Pan says those discussions never turned into arguments.
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“When he arrived, we didn’t treat him like a foreigner, foreigner or Chinese. When he came, he was our guest,” she said.
Judy Tu, another Taiwanese American from the Valley, said there was no justification for the shooting.
“I think it’s stupid and insane. We were both born in Taiwan and raised in Taiwan,” she said.
You say the shooting unfortunately highlights the problem of American gun violence.
“It has always been a problem. An American problem. The freedom to hold a weapon. In Taiwan, we have no weapons. We have knives, but we don’t use knives to combat this problem,” she said.
Pan says the members were shaken and considered security measures. They are moving forward focusing on the honor of Dr. Cheng and his family.
“His sacrifice will not be in vain, and we must stick together and embrace his spirit,” she said.
In light of the complicated politics and trauma, Taiwan-China relations experts urge people not to use this particular incident to create anti-China sentiment or other inflammatory rhetoric.