Thousands protest over soldier's death (update)

07/20/2013 02:44 PM

Taipei, July 20 (CNA) Thousands of protesters took to the streets in Taipei Saturday to demand the military reveal the truth about the suspicious death of an army conscript earlier this month and bring the perpetrators to justice.

Gathering in front of the Ministry of National Defense building in downtown Taipei, the protesters -- mostly wearing white T-shirts -- shouted slogans such as "give justice to the victim's family," "ensure human rights in the military," and "without the truth, there is no forgiveness."

The protesters also called for the intervention of a third party in the investigation into the death of Hung Chung-chiu on July 4. Hung is believed to have died due to the punishing exercises he was forced to do while in the brig.

In making the appeal, dozens of the young male protesters sang military songs with revised lyrics to criticize the army officers involved in Hung's death. The protesters also observed one minute of silence to mourn Hung.

On behalf of the victim's family, Hung's uncle showed up to support the protesters' call and offered thanks to them.

"We demand the truth," the uncle said, while also calling for a third party to join the investigation into his nephew's death.

The group also prepared a letter of petition, in which they demanded the defense ministry agree to let a third party take part in the investigation, preserve key evidence and protect witnesses related to the case, as well as ensure respect for human rights in the military.

A group called Citizen 1985, the rally's organizer, vowed that it will never give up pushing the government until justice is served.

The generally mild mannered protesters, most of whom were young men, erupted in boos while Deputy Defense Minister Andrew Yang showed up to accept the letter from the civic group.

"We ask the public to give the ministry a chance to rectify our errors with resolution," Yang said, bowing to the crowds and apologizing.

The ministry accepted the petition and promised to get to the bottom of what caused Hung's death.

The one and a half hour protest started at 9 a.m. and was attended by more than 30,000, according to the organizers.

Attending the demonstration with her two children, a 57-year-old mother said she hoped that the government could look into what has happened to Hung and make relevant adjustments to its military management.

"I could not bear to see Hung's mother's suffering," said Yen Shu-ching. "I cried when seeing her on TV and wanted to give her a hug."

The 24-year-old Hung's case has sparked public outrage over the possible abuse of the serviceman and the flawed disciplinary process that landed him in disciplinary confinement in the first place.

Hung was thrown into the brig on June 28 for violating a regulation against carrying a camera-equipped mobile phone onto his base in Hsinchu, even though he should have gotten nothing more than an administrative reprimand.

During his detainment, he was put through physically demanding exercises as part of his punishment, and collapsed on July 3 after completing strenuous drills in sweltering heat despite complaining that he was in distress.

Military prosecutors have launched an investigation into the case.

As of Friday, four officers had been taken into custody over the soldier's death, including Col. Ho Chiang-chung, deputy commander of Hung's unit -- the 542 Armor Brigade.

The others are Maj. Hsu Hsin-cheng, a company commander in the Army's 542 Armor Brigade in Hsinchu County, Staff Sgt. Fan Tso-hsien, and Sgt. Chen Yi-hsun.

(By Elaine Hou and Hsin-Yin Lee)ENDITEM/cs

    We value your privacy.
    Focus Taiwan (CNA) uses tracking technologies to provide better reading experiences, but it also respects readers' privacy. Click here to find out more about Focus Taiwan's privacy policy. When you close this window, it means you agree with this policy.