Taiwanese learn to shoot as Ukraine fuels China fears

STORY: Taiwanese who have never held a gun before are taking shooting lessons for the first time, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine ramps up anxiety.

Their fear is that giant neighbor China could make a similar move on the democratic island.

Taiwan tightly controls gun ownership and the use of these airsoft guns - which are similar to BB guns - is taught for competitions.

China's growing military pressure on the island it claims as its own, combined with the conflict in Ukraine, has spurred debate about how to boost defences in Taiwan - including whether to extend compulsory military service.

Max Chiang is CEO of Polar Light, a combat skills training company:

“At the moment, the number of people participating in this kind of activity in Taiwan is currently increasing. This has been already a trend in the past two years, since Chinese fighter jets started flying close to Taiwan, there has been an increase. After the Ukraine war started, the numbers have tripled or quadrupled, more and more people are coming to take part.”

Some in Taiwan fear that China, which has never ruled out using force to bring the island under its control, may take advantage of a West distracted by the Ukraine conflict.

Tattoo artist Su Chun was determined to learn how to use the air guns.

“(In case of war) the country will notify you (reservists) to gather in a certain location and then hand out guns and other equipment. Because most likely there will be teams made up of many people, I think there will certainly be all kinds of people, those who are prepared, people who aren’t prepared and also those who are panicking. I think all those types will be there. I am sure that most people don’t want to go to war, I also don’t want to go to war, but in the unfortunate event of this really happening, I will be mentally prepared.”

Taiwan has raised its alert level but has reported no unusual military movements by Beijing.

But some politicians in Taiwan have urged the public to start thinking about survival plans.

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