In a meeting with the family of Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘), the soldier that recently died in unclear circumstances, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said that the death would be investigated as quickly as possible and the family would be given ample compensation. He also said that Hung might be entered into the Martyrs’ Shrine. Still, more than two weeks after Hung died as a result of alleged bullying, commander-in-chief Ma is sitting around doing nothing while unscrupulous officers are colluding between themselves and maybe even destroying evidence.
How can he be so shameless as to say that Hung’s death will be “investigated as quickly as possible?” To offer compensation even before the truth has been uncovered makes it clear that he is trying to defuse the scandal by making a conciliatory offer; even more ludicrously, he even offered entry into the Martyrs’ Shrine.
The response of Hung’s older sister, Hung Tzu-yung’s (洪慈庸), who has displayed exceptional wisdom, can only be admired. She is not interested in the shrine offer, believing that her brother was abused to death while doing his military service rather than dying on the battlefield. Furthermore, if he were entered into the shrine, it would be at the lowest level.
However, the most worrying thing was Ma’s claim: “I’ve got this case under control.” If he really does have it under control, then the family may have no hope of ever finding out what really happened.
Ma’s first step in “controlling the case” was to state that Hung’s death was a matter of “improper discipline,” which means that his executioners will have nothing to fear. This is also the direction in which the military prosecutors are moving.
When meeting with the Hung family, Ma re-emphasized that there were severe problems with “military discipline and its implementation,” adamantly refusing to utter the word “abuse.”
His second step in “controlling” the investigation was to flatly reject the demands of Hung’s family that an independent third party be allowed to handle the investigation.
If it had not been for the fact that tens of thousands of people took to the streets in protest at the handling of the case, it is questionable if the Taoyuan District Prosecutors’ Office would have been allowed to “assist” military prosecutors with the investigation. The government has all along handled offenses by trusted advisers or officials either by accepting such behavior or by only issuing lenient verdicts.
Well known examples are the controversy surrounding the huge sums spent on the musical Dreamers (夢想家) for the Republic of China centenary in 2011, and corruption charges against former Executive Yuan secretary-general Lin Yi-shih (林益世). Ma is even shameless enough to brag that “my life is all about honesty and staying clean.” If this really were true, one would have to start thinking about offering CPR. Of course he has taken control of this disaster, which is all about prison sentences for his military officers.
The family has made it clear that they do not trust the military prosecutors, but as we have seen in the past, there are too many examples of Ma’s own untrustworthiness than can be recounted. Since Ma has a legal background, he is, of course, very clear on the fact that abuse leading to someone’s death in the military requires lifetime imprisonment. That is why he is insisting on “improper discipline,” for which the sentence will be less than four years in prison.
The general public are demanding that the truth be uncovered, but in addition, we must also make sure that the commander-in-chief does not see to it that his officers are cleared of any guilt.
Tseng Dau-hsiong is an opera director and a winner of the 2011 National Award for Arts.
Translated by Perry Svensson