WASHINGTON - The man charged in a California church shooting, allegedly motivated by his political hatred for Taiwan, had mailed several documents to a Chinese-language newspaper before the incident, the newspaper reported.
On Wednesday, World Journal, the largest Chinese-language newspaper in the United States, reported that before Sunday's shooting, David Chou, 68, mailed seven photocopied volumes of handwritten Chinese text and a flash drive to its Los Angeles branch. The documents, which were titled Diary of an Angel Destroying Independence, were received by the news outlet Monday.
World Journal said it did not report on the contents of the mailed materials, instead turning them over to Orange County police for its investigation. The Public Affairs Office of the Orange County Police Department told VOA Mandarin by phone on Wednesday that "we are aware and investigating" the materials.
Chou has been charged with one count of first-degree murder, five counts of attempted murder and four counts of possession of an explosive device, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said on Tuesday. Policy said Chou drove to Orange County in Southern California on Saturday, and on Sunday attended a lunch held by senior parishioners of the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church before he opened fire, killing one and injuring five.
Chou, who lived in Las Vegas, was a U.S. citizen whom authorities said grew up in Taiwan. On Monday, Orange County police said Chou was motivated by anti-Taiwan hatred.
China considers self-ruled Taiwan a breakaway province and has not ruled out the use of force to reunify the two sides.
David Chou, in a photo released May 16, 2022, by the Orange County Sheriff's Department.
The FBI said it has opened a federal hate crime investigation into the case.
The Orange County Register reported that an April 3, 2019, article in the Las Vegas Chinese News Network showed Chou had attended the inaugural meeting of the Las Vegas Chinese for Peaceful Unification. The organization aims to promote the peaceful unification of mainland China and Taiwan. 'Asking for peace from Beijing, and asking for unification from Taiwan,' its slogan says.
Gu Yawen, the president of Las Vegas Chinese Peaceful Unification, denied to VOA that Chou has any relationship with her organization.
"We don't have any ties with him," she told VOA via phone Tuesday. "He did come to our inauguration and came on the stage to promote his book in support of then-presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu, but that's about it."
Han was the presidential candidate for the pro-unification Kuomintang (KMT) party in the 2020 Taiwan election.
Gu said that because Chou made a brief remark on that day, some reporters thought he was one of the group's members. "But he's not. I've talked with him before. His thoughts were too extreme to be involved in our mission," she told VOA.
However, in a separate interview Tuesday with China Review News, Gu said that "Chou hadn't participated in any of our activities since the latter half of 2019, and since then he was no longer a member."
Gu also stressed that her organization has no relationship with the National Association for China's Peaceful Unification, a semi-official organization of the Chinese Communist Party's United Front Work Department, with the mission of promoting unification between mainland China and Taiwan.
Gu told VOA that Chou's extreme thoughts came from his anti-Taiwan political stance. She also suggested he has had troubles in his personal life.
"His opposition to Taiwan independence is true. His political stance, coupled with the fact that (he) had been relatively unhappy in his personal life, might have led to his extreme thinking," she said.
Gabe Kipers, a neighbor of church shooting victim Dr. John Cheng, kneels at a memorial for him outside his office building on May 17, 2022, in Aliso Viejo, Calif.
The local Las Vegas Chinese News Network reported that Chou was attacked in 2012. According to the report, Chou was the owner of 12 condominiums in Las Vegas and was attacked in April 2012 by a man and woman when he was collecting rent. The attack left him deaf in his right ear.
Balmore Orellana, Chou's neighbor in Las Vegas, told local media that Chou was "a sweet old man whose life started to fall apart over the last year or so."
He said Chou was in fact the owner of their apartment building, but last year it sold for less than he hoped. Judi Rock, his realtor, told local media that at the same time as the sale took place, Chou's wife was dying of cancer.
The authorities said that while Chou was motivated by political hatred for Taiwan, he chose the church California at random and didn't know anyone there.
Gu, from the Las Vegas branch of National Association for China's Peaceful Unification, questioned that statement. "If he's just anti-Taiwan, we have a Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in Las Vegas as well. Why would he drive all the way" to Laguna Woods, California, she asked. "I think there might be someone at the church that he had a feud with."
Wei Bizhou, deputy editor in chief at the World Journal North America, told VOA Mandarin that the choice fits perfectly with Chou's hatred toward Taiwan independence.
"This is because the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church has deep roots with Tainan Theological College and Seminary, which has been promoting Taiwan independence," he said. "So I don't think the police can conclude he chose the church at random."
The Presbyterian Church is the most prominent of the Christian dominations in Taiwan.
Lev Nachman, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard Fairbanks Center for China Studies, told local media that the Presbyterian church in Taiwan is known for supporting the pro-independence movement.