Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Taipei yesterday to protest the death of army corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘), who allegedly died from abuse while serving in the military.
Singing a Taiwanese version of the revolutionary song Do You Hear the People Sing? — one of the songs from the musical Les Miserables — white-clad protesters rallied on Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office, demanding that the military reveal the truth about Hung’s death and calling for the government to push for better protection of human rights in the military.
The demonstration was held on the eve of Hung’s funeral and attracted 200,000 people, according to event organizer and activist group Citizen 1985. Police estimated the crowd as numbering 110,000.
Photo: Lo Pei-der, Taipei Times
The group had previously said that it hoped “to attract 100,000 people to the rally to bid Hung farewell and push the government to investigate the case impartially.”
Among other appeals made by the demonstrators were calls for the Special Investigation Division to immediately launch a probe into the case, a review all similar cases reported in the past and the passage of legislation to allow service personnel to be tried in civilian courts in peace time rather than by court-martial.
Hung, a National Cheng Kung University graduate, died of heatstroke on July 4, following exercises he was forced to do as part of his punishment while confined to detention barracks for bringing a camera-equipped cellphone onto his base on June 28 without permission.
Photo: Lo Pei-der, Taipei Times
His death, just two days before he was due to be discharged after completing his year-long compulsory military service, has sparked a public outcry, with thousands of protesters holding a rally in front of the Ministry of National Defense on July 20 to demand an investigation.
Military prosecutors have found that some of the defendants held grudges against Hung and had colluded to bypass standard disciplinary procedures in order to subject him to punishment that was more severe than his offense merited.
Eighteen army officers have been indicted on charges of causing the death of a subordinate, impinging upon individual freedom or handing out unauthorized punishments.
All four army personnel detained during the investigation were released on bail on Thursday and Friday, a decision by the military court that the Hung family said it would appeal.
“Thank you everyone for helping us find the truth,” Hung’s mother, in tears, told the crowd, which responded by chanting “Go, go, go” as an encouragement to the family.
“On July 3, I received a call and rushed to the hospital, where the person I saw was not my son, but a body with many medical tubes coming out of it,” she said. “July 3 was the most heart-breaking day of my life. I cannot not believe that my healthy, active son is gone forever.”
Photo: Chang Chia-ming, Taipei Times
“The military told me heatstroke was the reason for [his] death,” she said. “In the month since then, we have waited, but we have not been given the truth, honesty and justice we were promised.”
During the protest, demonstrators shouted slogans and held placards bearing messages such as “We want the truth,” “We want the perpetrators to be punished,” “We want reform” and “The president must take responsibility for human rights in the military.”
“I am mourning for Hung and I want the truth. I hope there won’t be any more abuse and deaths like his in the military,” protester Jenny Tan said.
The demonstrators also projected the Chinese characters yuan (冤, “injustice” or “wronged”) and zhen xiang (真相, “truth”) on the Presidential Office with LED lights.
They also observed a 30-second silence for Hung.
The Taoyuan District Prosecutors’ Office, which on Friday said there had been no tampering with the surveillance footage of the holding cell where Hung was confined prior to his death, has said it will continue its investigation into whether a military hospital should be held accountable for document forgery and involuntary manslaughter.
The Cabinet called a press conference at 9:50pm in response to the demands.
Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) said the Executive Yuan will establish a commission comprising officials and representatives from human rights groups and civil groups, to re-investigate possible cases of human rights abuses in the military.
The Executive Yuan will also push for the revision of the Code of Court Martial Procedure (軍事審判法) to allow cases of abuse in the military to be reviewed in civil courts in peace time rather than by court-martial.
Jiang pledged the government will spare no effort to investigate Hung’s case to uncover the truth and to thoroughly review the military disciplinary procedures.
Additional reporting by Shih Hsiu-chuan
‘LOCAL TRANSMISSION’: The nation reported 11 new cases, including seven local infections in the north, the highest daily number of cases since the pandemic began The COVD-19 situation has entered the “local transmission” stage and enhanced disease prevention measures have been implemented until June 8, the Central Epidemic Command Center announced yesterday as it reported six locally transmitted cases with unclear infection sources. The center reported 11 new cases yesterday: four imported cases from India, and seven local infections in northern Taiwan, the highest daily number of cases since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that one of the local infections — case No. 1,201 — is a woman who is a family member living with
SIXTEEN LOCAL: Three COVID-19 infections are linked to a cluster at a gambling house in Yilan County, 10 to a case in New Taipei City and three had unclear sources The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday urged people to increase vigilance and thoroughly practice preventive measures against COVID-19 as it reported 16 locally transmitted cases of the disease. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that 21 cases were confirmed in Taiwan yesterday: 16 local cases, four imported cases and one case undetermined. The locally transmitted cases are three linked to a cluster of infections at a gambling house in Yilan County, 10 associated with a previous case in New Taipei City and three with unclear sources of infection. The CECC on Tuesday reported a cluster
‘DOWN TO ZERO 2.0’: All pilots are to undergo quarantine at government centers, while cabin crew on long-haul flights have to quarantine for 14 days The Central Epidemic Command Center yesterday announced stricter measures to contain a COVID-19 outbreak among China Airlines (華航) flight crew, as the nature of the confirmed cases indicated an unknown chain of transmission within the airline. The “Down to Zero 2.0” plan will be tough on China Airlines personnel, but is necessary to minimize the risk to society, said Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center. Under the measures, all China Airlines pilots and copilots are to be recalled to undergo quarantine at government centers, while cabin crew who are returning from long-haul flights or who have
GRID PROBLEM: A Taipower spokesman said that the blackouts were not due to usage exceeding supply, nor were they because of a problem at the Singda plant There were rolling blackouts across Taiwan yesterday due to a grid malfunction at the Singda Power Plant (興達電廠) in Kaohsiung’s Yongan District (永安), while Taiwan Power Co (Taipower, 台電) said that it was working “as hard as possible to resolve the issue as soon as possible.” At 2:37pm, a malfunction at an ultra-high-voltage substation in Kaohsiung’s Lujhu District (路竹) triggered four generators at the Singda plant to go offline, cutting power output by 2.2 million kilowatts and prompting Taipower to initiate rolling blackouts nationwide as it worked on the problem. Taipower spokesman Chang Ting-shu (張廷抒) told a news conference in Taipei that