Protesters heckle president at funeral

LISTENING IN?:Relatives of 24-year-old army corporal Hung Chung-chiu, whose funeral was yesterday, said they suspect that their telephones have been tapped

By Rich Chang  /  Staff reporter, with CNA

Mon, Aug 05, 2013 - Page 1

Angry protesters heckled President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and blocked his approach for about 20 minutes yesterday when he arrived for the funeral of army corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘). Later the president again promised Hung’s family that he would try to uncover the truth behind the 24-year-old’s death.

Ma arrived for the funeral in Greater Taichung at 8:30am amid heckling by more than 100 angry protesters and Hung’s relatives who shouted slogans such as “We want truth,” “Give us justice,” “Ma Ying-jeou step down” and “Liar.”

Police officers had to push protestors aside to allow Ma to get from his vehicle to the Hung’s house — a distance of about 60m.

Ma and his entourage were finally allowed to pay their respects after a borough chief Hsieh Jui-te (謝瑞德) kneeled down in front of the crowd and begged them to make way for the president.

Ma was subjected to more protests and heckling as he was leaving the funeral.

Hung died on July 4, two days before his scheduled discharge from the military, allegedly of heatstroke that resulted from strenuous physical punishment for bringing a smartphone with a camera onto his base in violation of regulations. His death has sparked public outrage and mass protests by tens of thousands of people demanding justice and reforms in the military.

Ma, accompanied by Greater Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強), newly appointed Minister of National Defense Andrew Yang (楊念祖) and former defense minister Kao Hua-chu (高華柱), again promised the family that they would seek to uncover the truth behind Hung’s death.

“Just as protesters rallied on Ketagalan Boulevard yesterday [Saturday] demanding truth, yes, the truth is the point, this must be clear,” Ma said.

Ma said the facts of the case would be revealed during the trial for the 18 military personnel who have been indicted.

“Many things that were not made public during the prosecutors’ investigation will be closely examined by the military courts,” he said.

Ma said that although the case will be tried by a military court, if an amendment to the Code of Court Martial Procedure (軍事審判法) is made to allow cases of abuse in the military be reviewed in civil courts, it would be transferred.

He added that the Executive Yuan has formed a task force to amend the law and negotiate with the legislature in a bid to allow Hung’s case to be tried by a civilian court as soon as possible.

Hung’s father told Ma that the family was angry about the military prosecutors’ indictment because Hung was slandered in it, as it said Hung’s colleagues and superiors sent him to detention in part because he altered his physical fitness test results and did not carry out his duties.

The family was also angered by a decision by the Military High Court to release four leading defendants on bail immediately after they were referred to the court for trial, ruling that what they had not been charged with serious crimes.

Ma sought to reassure the family, saying that military prosecutors are appealing the Military High Court’s decision to release the four. He also urged the family to help the court discover the truth during the trial.

Meanwhile, Hung’s relatives said they suspect that their telephones have been tapped and have expressed fears about intimidation by the authorities.

Hung’s mother asked Ma to protect her family from harassment and ensure their safety.

Ma promised to look into the complaints and said that anyone found to have illegally tapped the family’s phones will be held accountable.

Later yesterday, the ministry said it has not authorized any such monitoring and will punish anyone in the military found to have done so.

Meanwhile, hours after the funeral, homicide was listed as the cause of Hung’s death on the third death certificate issued by the military prosecutors. The prosecutors met with the family in the afternoon and handed over a document saying Hung died of homicide, Hung’s sister Hung Tzu-yung (洪慈庸) said.

The certificate was issued hours after the family complained to Ma that the military prosecutors had refused to list the cause of death, even though a coroner asked by the military to perform an autopsy said publicly that the soldier died of causes “inflicted by others.”

On the first certificate issued days after the soldier’s death on July 4, the cause of death was listed as “accidental.”

After protests by the family and a public outcry, a second certificate issued late last month said the cause of death “remains to be verified.”

Meanwhile, 32 days after his death and hours after his funeral, homicide was listed as the cause of Hung’s death on the third death certificate issued by the military prosecutors. The prosecutors met with the victim’s family in the afternoon and handed over a document saying Hung died of homicide, said Hung’s sister Hung Tzu-yung.

The certificate was issued hours after the family protested to Ma that the military prosecutors refused to list Hung Chung-chiu’s cause of death even though a coroner asked by the military to perform an autopsy said publicly that the soldier died of causes “inflicted by others.”

On the first certificate issued days after Hung’s death on July 4, the cause of death was listed as “accidental.”

After protests by the family and a public outcry, a second certificate issued late last month said the cause of death “remains to be verified.”