Two officers of the army’s 542nd Brigade were detained by the Military High Court yesterday for their suspected roles in the death of army corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘), a case that has drawn national attention and public outrage amid allegations of widespread bullying in the military.
Major Hsu Shin-cheng (徐信正) and Staff Sergeant Fan Tso-hsien (范佐憲), both officers of the 542nd Brigade’s Headquarters Company, were detained on charges of obstruction of personal liberty, unauthorized punishment of subordinates and collusion, the court said.
Hsu allegedly had not gone through required procedures in his approval of Hung’s disciplinary order, while Fan is suspected of having manipulated the results of a Sergeant Evaluation Committee meeting, a required procedure for Hung’s confinement, and trying to influence the testimony of the other witnesses, the court said in a press release.
Three officers of the brigade, including the vice brigade commander, Colonel Ho Chiang-chung (何江忠), have now been detained over the case, in which the 23-year-old corporal died from heat exhaustion on July 4 after participating in a training session the day before.
Hung had been serving in the army’s 542nd Brigade in Hsinchu County before he was transferred to the 269th Brigade in Taoyuan on June 28 for disciplinary action for bringing a cellphone with a camera onto a base without permission. He was placed in solitary confinement.
Speaking on behalf of the Hung family, Hung’s uncle Hu Shih-ho (胡世和) said Army Command “was either being tricked by the investigators and officers or intentionally lied to the public,” adding that the Ministry of National Defense (MND) has failed to implement a witness protection program so whistleblowers can provide testimony without fear of persecution.
Hung had asked for help many times before his death, making a telephone call to his mother and sending text messages to Brigade Commander Shen Wei-chih (沈威志) before he was sent to the confinement area, as well as raising his hands twice during the physical training to signal to supervisors he was in pain, on July 3, Hu said.
“And [the MND] is telling me that Hung Chung-chiu’s death was only a result of a series of administrative errors?” Hu said.
Much attention has been focused on missing surveillance video recordings on July 1 and July 3 at the confinement area — which the Hungs have urged the MND to secure or recover as evidence as soon as possible — and testimony from several soldiers in the brigade. Members of the public have also accused the military of being too slow in its investigation and refusing to work with non-military judicial authorities to speed up the pace.
With regards of joint investigation and video footage, senior military prosecutor Major General Tsao Chin-sheng (曹金生) reiterated that the case would be handled by the military judiciary alone and there was no “missing July 3 video footage” because the location where Hung fell ill is not covered by any surveillance camera.
Separately in Greater Kaohsiung yesterday, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chao Tien-ling (趙天麟) disclosed an interview with a soldier who was in the confinement area of the 269th Brigade at the same time as Hung.
The soldier, not identified by Chao to protect his safety, recounted details of what he said he witnessed during the last 30 minutes before Hung was rushed to the hospital on July 3, saying that Hung trembled and collapsed at about dinner time after five days of rigorous physical training, but an ambulance did not arrive until 20 minutes later and no first-aid measures, other than the use of an oxygen cylinder, were employed to alleviate Hung’s condition.
The officers brought first-aid equipment to the confinement area, where there had been no medical equipment before July 3, the next day, the soldier was quoted as saying.
Chao asked the MND to relocate the witnesses who blew the whistle on the misconduct as stipulated in the Witness Protection Act (證人保護法).
DPP Legislator Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃) on Wednesday also cited an unidentified source as saying that Colonel Chen Yi-ming (陳毅銘), director of the 269th Brigade’s Political Warfare Office, ordered the destruction of a 30-minute video recording, an accusation that Chen denied.