Tue, Dec 19, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Bill regulating military conduct proposed by DPP

NEW REGULATIONS If passed, the amendment would prohibit service personnel from printing or distributing information that isn't politically neutral

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators yesterday proposed an amendment prohibiting military personnel from criticizing the government in public, while opposition legislators called the proposed law a violation of the constitutional right to free speech.

The legislature's Home and Nations Committee yesterday referred an amendment to Article 6 of the National Defense Act to the legislative floor with the DPP legislators' support.

If the amendment is passed by the legislature, it would prohibit military personnel from printing, distributing and posting information that is not politically neutral.

Members of the military are also prohibited from holding or joining partisan rallies, the draft bill says.

"The amendment is against freedom of speech, which is protected by the Constitution, so the amendment is unconstitutional," Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) told reporters.

Lin and several opposition legislators did not attend yesterday's committee meeting.

DPP Legislator Tang Huo-shen (湯火聖) said the amendment was proposed to correct a series of incidents in which military personnel allegedly joined the anti-President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) campaign led by former DPP chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德).

In one of the controversial incidents, Major Tung Hwa-cheng (董華正), a military instructor at Taipei Senior High School in Shilin (士林), was detained last month by the Military High Court Prosecutors' Office and charged with inciting treason after he took part in an anti-Chen protest on Sept. 20.

At the protest, Tung showed a copy of a letter he had sent to Minister of National Defense Lee Jye (李傑), in which he said any soldier would take the opportunity to murder the president in a war.

The prosecutor's office said that while Tung's participation in the protest was not a problem, it considered his appearance in uniform and the letter's content as a violation of the Military Criminal Code (陸海空軍刑法).

In addition, Chu Chao-kang (屈肇康), an army honor guard who posted a message in an Internet chatroom suggesting that he wanted to harm the president, was detained by military prosecutors in July.

Chu wrote in his message that when he took part in an honor guard to welcome Nauru President Ludwig Scotty on March 7: "I almost could not resist the urge to poke my M-1 rifle into the president's head."

Article 6 of the National Defense Act now requires military personnel to not engage in regional and party affiliations.

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