Tue, Jul 23, 2013 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Camera blackouts and dark pasts

It is two weeks since army corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘) died, yet the military investigation into the incident seems to have become just as opaque as the surveillance cameras that blacked out just before Hung’s death.

Hung’s family and others had hoped that the surveillance footage would reveal what happened during the corporal’s confinement and the exercise drills he had to perform. Who was responsible, who gave the orders and who implemented them? Yet after the surveillance equipment was sent to the Ministry of Justice’s Investigation Bureau, the footage was found to be completely black.

How could all 16 cameras in the detention barracks black out at the same time? It seems improbable that after functioning properly they suddenly broke down simultaneously, and then, miraculously, resumed filming as normal.

Who “blacked out” the cameras? If the equipment was tampered with afterward, it could mean the destruction of evidence; if the cameras were turned off prior to the alleged abuse, it could mean premeditated murder.

The blacked-out screens are obscuring the whole case and observers are chilled to the bone. It cannot help but remind Taiwanese of sinister incidents in the military’s dark past, such as the eradication of crucial recordings in connection with the death of navy captain Yin Ching-feng (尹清楓) and the forced confession of the wrongfully executed Chiang Kuo-ching (江國慶).

The military investigation has not brought out an ounce of truth. The media is awash with rumor and speculation, and both Hung’s family and society at large are dissatisfied with the military’s apparent untrustworthiness. On Saturday, 30,000 people protested in front of the Ministry of National Defense because they are worried about family and friends doing their military service, because they are angry over the military’s procrastination and lack of transparency and because they are sad about Hung and the many other young men who have lost their lives, not in defense of Taiwan, but in unexplained service deaths.

If Hung’s death is not investigated and cleared up and the guilty punished, that will be unacceptable to Hung’s family and all the families of young men doing compulsory service. Who on earth, one has to wonder, would want to serve in the volunteer army in future?

Hung’s death has become a national issue. In addition to the ministry and the army, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), as commander-in-chief, should also shoulder some responsibility. Ma may have consoled Hung’s family, saying that he will handle the case, but he made similar promises to the residents of Taipei’s Huaguang Community (華光) before it was leveled to the ground. His empty guarantees will not solve any problems. Ma must demand that the military sets up an investigative task force that includes independent experts in order to examine all aspects of the case objectively.

Thanks to the attention given to Hung’s death by the public, the commander-in-chief has ordered a thorough investigation and there is a possibility that it could shine a light into the darker recesses of the military.

Ma should demand that the military establish and commit to clear human rights standards in its training and management. Any abuse or bullying that violates these standards would then be a violation of human rights and the perpetrators could be brought before the law.

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