Aug. 8 to Aug. 14
Chiang Kuo-ching (江國慶) denied raping and murdering a little girl until the very end, but on Aug. 13, 1997, the 21-year-old was executed by firing squad — less than a year after his arrest.
The Air Force soldier refused to eat his last meal, and sent a final letter to his father maintaining that he confessed after being tortured. The letter also contained a list of the officers who had framed him.
Photo: Liu Hsin-te, Taipei Times
“I will definitely become a malicious spirit, so I can exact revenge on those who caused me harm,” he reportedly said before his death.
It turns out that Chiang was telling the truth. After a posthumous retrial, Chiang was deemed not guilty on Sept. 13, 2011 when the court ruled that Chiang’s statements were made against his will. Additionally, the blood-soaked toilet paper and knife used as evidence against him were re-examined by forensic experts, who concluded that they could not prove that Chiang was involved.
Chiang’s father, who had spent the previous decade trying to prove his son’s innocence, died a year before his son’s execution. His mother was awarded NT$131.8 million — at the time the largest compensation for a mistrial ever — and continued to demand punishment for the officers responsible. They were fined, but never faced criminal charges.
Photo: Liao Chen-hui, Taipei Times
The case gained widespread attention, and led to much discussion about whether Taiwan should abolish the death penalty. Another soldier named Hsu Jung-chou (許榮洲) was arrested and convicted as the real killer, but he was later pardoned due to evidence of torture, his mental disability and multiple contradictory statements.
The five-year-old victim’s real killer remains unknown.
Photo: Lin Cheng-kun, Taipei Times
Chiang was born on Double Ten National Day in 1965, and his Chinese name translates as “national celebration.” He grew up in New Taipei City’s Yungho District (永和), and began his military service in the Air Force in 1995. He had five months left until his discharge when on Sept. 12, 1986, a five-year-old girl surnamed Hsieh (謝) was found in a ditch on the base raped and murdered.
A military task force was quickly formed under immense pressure from the higher-ups. After initially making little progress, the investigation narrowed in on Chiang when he failed a lie detector test. He was detained and later brought into an interrogation room in a dark bunker. Over the next 37 hours, he was physically and psychologically abused, subject to round-the-clock questioning by counterintelligence officers and shown videos of the girl’s autopsy.
“I was so scared. I had only seen this kind of scene on television or in a movie, and this kind of treatment was only for spies or serious criminals. How could this happen to me?” Chiang wrote in a letter to his family.
Photo: Liu Chih-yuan, Taipei Times
Not being able to endure the extreme duress, Chiang confessed.
“My exhaustion was at its limit, and what made me despair even more was that I had no idea why they chose me,” he wrote. “I hadn’t even collected my thoughts when I was forced to write a confession. The officer stood next to me and told me what to write.”
The Air Force immediately called a press conference and announced that the case had been solved.
However, the confession was questionable from the start. The China Times (中國時報) criticized the military’s handling of the case, especially the fact that it shut the police out of the investigation.
“When amateurs try to be professionals, they put in twice the effort to get half the results,” the newspaper wrote.
The article slammed everything from the handling of the evidence to crime scene control to the lack of transparency.
However, the military commended the investigators and the trial proceeded. Chiang was sentenced to death on Dec. 26, 1996. But his execution was delayed and in March 1997, the Ministry of Defense ordered a retrial due to a lack of evidence and questionable interrogation methods.
However, the new trial was presided over by the same three judges, who maintained their original verdict. It was later revealed that one of the judges wasn’t legally qualified to try the case.
In July of the same year, several Democratic Progressive Party legislators held a press conference criticizing the trial and verdict, but Chiang’s fate had already sealed.
Meanwhile, Air Force soldier Hsu Jung-chou (許榮洲) was arrested and convicted of raping another child. He also confessed to killing the girl in the Chiang case, but according to a document by writer and anti-death penalty activist Chang Chuan-fen (張娟芬), the military refused to even consider Hsu’s testimony and dismissed it saying that he had a mental disability. Hsu was put on trial and convicted for the murder-rape case in 2011. However, the charges were dismissed and he was released from prison in 2013 due to a lack of evidence.
Chiang’s execution didn’t initially receive much attention from the public, but the case became well known due to the unrelenting efforts of his father, Chiang Chih-an (江支安), who spent the following decade trying to prove his son’s innocence and avenge his death.
This took a toll on his health, and he died in June 2010. Although he didn’t live to see Chiang’s exoneration, the Control Yuan released a report in May 2010 concluding that Chiang was wrongfully executed.
“It was against the law to hand the entire proceedings to the Air Force’s counterintelligence unit, who subjected Chiang Kuo-ching to illegal interrogation … They tried to conceal the discovery of the suspect surnamed Hsu and ignored any evidence that contradicted their verdict, instead swiftly executing Chiang … [T]his is a blatant violation of basic human rights.”
A retrial was ordered, and on Sept. 14, 2011, Chiang’s name was finally cleared.
His mother and lawyer hoped that the officers who caused the wrongful death would be prosecuted next. The highest-ranking officer was then-Air Force Headquarters commander Chen Chao-min (陳肇敏), who served as Minister of National Defense from 2008 to 2009. The officers received demerits, and five of them were fined a total of NT$59.5 million. But they avoided criminal responsibility, partially due to the statute of limitations for public servants being just 10 years.
The Taipei Prosecutor’s Office announced in 2015 that it would not indict Chen and the five others involved, stating that the six defendants were motivated by an eagerness to “distinguish” themselves to close the case in which Chiang was a suspect, but did not intend to kill Chiang, and that there was no causal relationship between their intent and the young man’s death.
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