Minister of National Defense Kao Hua-chu (高華柱) yesterday visited the family of late Army Corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘) and promised to find out the truth about his death earlier this month.
Hung Chung-chiu was serving in the 542nd Brigade in Hsinchu and was to be discharged on July 6.
On June 28, he was sent to the 269th Brigade in Taoyuan for disciplinary action because he brought a camera phone onto the base on June 23, in breach of regulations.
On the afternoon of July 3, he was let out of his cell to join a 45-minute routine training session with his fellow soldiers that included running, push-ups and sit-ups.
Hung told his supervisors that he felt “very sick” after the workout. He was sent to a hospital in Hsinchu County and later transferred to the Tri-Service General Hospital, where he died the next day.
Hung’s parents believe their son died from heat exhaustion.
Kao visited Hung’s family in Greater Taichung yesterday morning immediately after returning from a trip abroad.
“[My] son is gone,” Hung’s mother told Kao in tears.
Kao, who paid his respects in front of Hung’s coffin, tried to console the soldier’s family and vowed to look into the incident.
The minister conveyed President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) great sorrow and condolences over the tragedy to Hung’s family.
“This sad incident has taught us an important lesson,” Kao told reporters. “I have asked the armed forces to study the incident from the perspectives of the law, executive management, emergency treatment and other aspects.”
Meanwhile, the military has arranged for Hung’s autopsy to be conducted today by forensic expert Shih Tai-ping (石台平) of the Ministry of Justice’s Institute of Forensic Medicine.
The military announced it would punish 27 officers, including three-star Commander General Lee Hsiang-chou (李翔宙), over Hung’s death, and conduct further investigations into the matter.
Meanwhile, the Taiwan Medical Alliance for Labor Justice and Patient Safety (TMAL) panned the Ministry of National Defense for bringing a medical officer who had attended Huang before he was rushed to hospital before a military court on suspicion of negligent homicide.
The TMAL protested against what it called the “unreasonableness and thoughtlessness” of the ministry’s action.
The organization said it is dedicated “to ensuring the rights of all healthcare providers.”
The group said in the statement that the military has been practicing improper punitive measures for years and it is every family’s worst nightmare that their son is conscripted and does not return.
“We share the fury over the mistreatment that Hung was subjected to, and we support the arrest of his assailants by law enforcement agencies and any measures to correct the wrongs in the existing system to prevent similar incidents from happening again,” the statement said.
“However, the military chose to shirk its responsibility by attributing the death of the serviceman to a medical officer who is, like Hung, fulfilling his mandatory military service,” the group said.
According to the Chinese-language Apple Daily, the medical officer, surnamed Lu (呂), has made an appeal to the organization.
TMAL said the officer told it that he arrived at the confinement cell about five minutes after he was informed of Hung’s condition and arranged for hospitalization immediately after he found Hung unconscious due to heat stroke.
The ministry reportedly said that it had detained the medical officer not to accuse him of wrongdoing, but to “find out the truth” amid doubts over alleged delays in medical treatment and hospitalization.