Thu, May 16, 2019 - Page 2 News List

Mountaineer given leniency over abduction

PERSPECTIVE:Chang Yung-yun has stirred controversy for taking young girls climbing without their parents’ consent, but supporters said the girls went on their own free will

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter

The Taichung branch of the Taiwan High Court yesterday gave transgender cosplayer and mountain climber Chang Yung-yun (張詠芸) a three-year suspended sentence for abducting an underaged girl in 2017, when they spent more than a month in the mountains.

Chang, now 21, is well-known in the nation’s mountain climbing community, earning praise for her skills, physical endurance, outdoor survival instincts and independent spirit.

She is also famous as a cosplayer, adopting and assuming many video game and anime cartoon characters.

Chang was born a boy, named Chun-yu (張峻瑜), who felt trapped in a man’s body. When he turned 18, he had a sex-change operation and legally changed his gender and adopted a female name.

Chang is reportedly a certified professional mountain guide and earned a living taking groups trekking through the nation’s mountain ranges.

However, she got embroiled in controversies and legal trouble for accompanying underaged girls, without their parents’ consent, camping for many weeks at remote high-altitude sites.

In the original trial, the Taichung District Court found Chang guilty of “offenses against the family,” for abducting a 14-year-old girl, surnamed Yen (顏), in 2017, when they went trekking and stayed more than a month in the Chilai Mountain (奇萊山) area, which is considered a very dangerous place for inexperienced hikers.

Yen’s parents sued Chang, then 19, for abducting their daughter.

The district court found Chang guilty and handed her a six-month prison sentence.

Chang appealed the decision, which resulted in yesterday’s High Court ruling of a three-year suspended sentence.

She does not need to serve time, but has been put on three years’ probation.

The judges said they decided on leniency, because Chang was relatively young at the time and did not have a good understanding of the situation, and has already reached a settlement with the girl’s parents.

The 2017 incident was not the first time Chang became involved in a controversy.

In 2014, when he was a 16-year-old boy who used the alias Bai Lin (白凜) from an online video game, he allegedly took a high-school girl, surnamed Chen (陳), camping for weeks at Nanhuda Mountain (南湖大山) at the Taroko National Park.

The following year, he took on a Japanese character name, Hoshikawa (星川), and allegedly took a young girl, surnamed Kung (孔), camping at Chilai Mountain.

However, Chang also has many supporters who have defended her actions.

They said that the girls who went climbing with Chang expressed a willingness to stay with her and did not report any criminal activities.

Investigations have also not found any evidence of sexual deviancy as some media outlets and netizens had insinuated, they said.

Her supporters said the girls had left their home on their own free will, and Chang led them away from the crowded cities to the high mountains to learn independence, solitude and self-reliance, and to experience the beautiful wilderness in Taiwan’s high mountains.

Yesterday’s ruling can still be appealed.

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