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Wed, Feb 28, 2001 - Page 3 News List

Military investigating Lei diary case

REDUCED TO ASHES The military is to investigate what happened to the journals of dissident Lei Cheng that were apparently burned by law enforcement officials

By Brian Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The military has set up a task force to re-investigate the mysterious circumstances under which personal notes written by late democracy activist Lei Cheng (雷震) during his 10-year imprisonment were burned by law enforcement officials 13 years ago.

The Ministry of National Defense (MND) yesterday announced the establishment of the task force as part of its response to instructions from President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to find out the truth of the matter.

"Although Lei's original prison notes were destroyed, we cannot rule out the possibility that there might be copies left. The task force is to seek evidence from Lei's former acquaintances," said MND spokesman Major General Huang Sui-sheng (黃穗生).

The journals which the MND are seeking were written by Lei between 1960 and 1970 while he was in prison on charges of sedition.

Lei was a well-known political prisoner and democracy activist during the early years of the KMT's rule. He was released from prison in 1970 and died 10 years later.

Lei's notes, estimated to comprise around 4 million characters, are widely considered to be one of the most important documents testifying to the Taiwan people's long fight for democracy.

Military judge Colonel Chiang Ta-wei (蔣大偉) said that Lei's original notes were destroyed in 1988 and that there were no extra copies to be found.

"Lei started writing the notes in 1960 after he was imprisoned at a military prison in Hsintien, Taipei County," said Chang.

"The notes were discovered by prison guards in a comprehensive security check on July 23, 1970," he said.

"The notes were written in volumes. They were all sent to the then Taiwan Garrison General Headquarters (TGGH) for examination. The examination results showed the written materials contained praise of the enemy [the communists] and abuse of the government. They were confiscated as a result," said Chiang.

"The garrison headquarters did not return the notes to Lei when he was set free in 1970. Until his death in 1980, Lei never asked for the return of the notes. The notes were stored at the TGGH until 1987 when the decades-old martial law was lifted," he said.

"The notes were then trans-ferred to the Judge Advocates Bureau under the defense ministry. The following year the bureau turned the materials back over to the Hsintien military prison, where Lei had been incarcerated," he said.

"In a meeting on April 29, 1988, the prison leadership made a decision to burn and destroy the materials in accordance with a prison regulation allowing prison authorities to confiscate and destroy the personal property of inmates," he said.

The next day, all of Lei's prison notes were burnt, Chiang said. The event was recorded in the journal, he said.

The order to burn the notes was suspected to have been given under dubious circumstances, because it occured just four days after the Control Yuan decided that Lei's political persecution should be re-investigated with items that he had written, including his prison notes, taken into account.

MND spokesman Huang con-ceded that the relevant authorities were indeed at fault for hastily incinerating Lei's notes and said that then Judge Advocates Bureau director Wu Sung-chang (吳松常) had been disciplined for his role in the incident. Wu died last year.

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