Amid unrelenting attention over the death of army conscript Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘), who died under suspicious circumstances earlier this month, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday bowed and apologized for the incident and instructed the Ministry of National Defense (MND) to coordinate efforts with the civil judicial system to facilitate the investigation.
Ma also instructed the ministry to examine the military’s disciplinary and appeals systems and present a report on human rights protection in the services by tomorrow.
“I want the military courts to work with the civil judicial authorities and spare no effort to complete investigation of the case … It is also important not to avoid questions over the case. We must reveal the truth to the public,” Ma said while presiding over a meeting of the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) Central Standing Committee.
Ma’s apology and comments came on the heels of his visit to Hung’s family on Saturday, during which he pledged greater efforts to expedite the probe into the soldier’s death.
Hung died on July 4, following physical exercises he had been forced to do as part of his punishment while confined to detention barracks.
His family has cast doubts on the reliability of the military’s probe into his death and have requested an independent investigation.
Ma yesterday renewed his promises to facilitate the probe into Hung’s death and to keep the investigation process transparent while ensuring that sensitive details of the ongoing investigation are not comprised.
Minister of National Defense Kao Hua-chu (高華柱) and Minister of Justice Tseng Yung-fu (曾勇夫) met yesterday to discuss the establishment of a cooperation platform for jointly investigating the case.
Ma also promised that severe punishments would be handed out to those responsible for Hung’s death, while assuring the human rights of soldiers and the integrity of complaint handling mechanisms.
“There are no limits to the investigation of the case, and we will definitely ensure severe punishments for those involved [in Hung’s death],” he said.
“We will ensure all parents feel safe sending their children to the military, and make sure all young people receive reasonable treatment before they leave the services safe and sound,” he said.
Separately yesterday, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said his party is pushing for the establishment of a 100-member military affairs reform panel to submit a reform plan to rebuild the military’s tarnished image.
The panel, which would include 31 retired generals, would discuss a wide range of issues, including the military’s system, culture and management, Su said after the weekly Central Standing Committee meeting.
The party also asked its legislative caucus to promote the establishment of a document request committee in the Legislative Yuan’s upcoming extra session to seek the truth behind Hung’s death, Su said.
Meanwhile, DPP spokesperson Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲) reiterated the party’s demands over the controversial case: A joint investigation panel made up of civilian and military judicial personnel and a document request committee in the Legislature to probe Hung’s death and other military human rights cases.
The performance of Ma, who is also commander-in-chief, during the past three weeks after Hung’s suspicious death has been disappointing, Lin said, adding that the defense ministry’s slow pace in handling the investigation is also unacceptable.