On Thursday evening last week, a crowd of 150 gathered at the Tamed Fox in Taipei’s Xinyi District to fundraise for the victims of the Taroko train crash. The purpose was solemn but the atmosphere at the dinner was festive. More than US$85,000 was brought in by the event, which the organizers plan to donate to the Taitung city government for their second phase of recovery efforts, focusing on mental health and long term recovery for the families of victims.

The three hosts and organizers were Kevin Lin, a co-founder of the live streaming platform Twitch who has invested in The News Lens, Benjamin Wu, a Partner at Huntsman Family Investments, and Walter Wang, Jr., an executive for an esports team TSM and member of the Formosa Plastics family.

Lin, Wu, and Wang, are among the central figures in one of the biggest stories in Taiwan during the pandemic — the country’s transformation into a mecca for the global Taiwanese diaspora. Of particular note to those seeking to cultivate Taiwan’s native talent have been the many leading lights in Silicon Valley, entertainment, and finance who have formed a tight-knit community in Taipei of Covid refugees.


Photo Credit: Tim Wen / Tamed Fox Cafe

A scene from the fundraising event on Thursday.

But now with vaccinations taking up around the world, and the possibilities opening up of returning abroad, a question the Taiwanese diaspora leaders and others around them have been asking are becoming more urgent: What will be the long term effects of this influx for Taiwan?

They had all met with both Taiwanese startup founders and government officials during their pandemic stays to offer guidance. But it was Wu who thought of putting together an event to contribute to Taiwan in gratitude for taking him and others in during the pandemic. Wu, like Lin, came on the government’s Employment Gold Card program, while Wang holds a Taiwan passport.

Though the idea had been brewing for some time, the train crash had a galvanizing effect on the trio. The April 2 derailment had 49 fatalities and injured at least 200 others. “After the crash, we decided that we really had to do something for this horrible tragedy,” Wang, Jr. said.

An unexpected challenge arose when the Hualien county government announced that they would stop accepting donations on April 15, the night of the fundraiser. The three then decided to direct the funds to the mental health initiative run out of Taitung city, an effort they all believe in as critically important.

While the bigger picture of the event was expressing gratitude to Taiwan for welcoming them during Covid, even this doesn’t quite capture the full meaning of their philanthropic work. Taiwan had always been a presence in all of their lives — they would frequently travel to Taiwan while they were growing up in the States, and spoke of the work ethic inculcated by their Taiwanese parents. The charity event was done as much out of a sense of recognition that Taiwan, and the values their parents had formed here, had played a role in their careers as it was for the hospitality they felt during the pandemic.

Wu spoke of his desire to give back as stemming from the country’s “resiliency despite being dealt bad cards on the international stage,” speaking specifically about the success of the semiconductor industry and in responding to Covid.

Yet there’s a personal aspect for the three, too. “The warmth my parents and I have experienced since being back is better than anywhere else we have lived,” said Lin.

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TNL Editor: Bryan Chou, Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)

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