New defense chief expected at protest march on Saturday


TAIPEI — Newly appointed Defense Minister Andrew Yang said yesterday that he intends to be present at an Aug. 3 protest rally over the recent death of an Army conscript.

Yang said in a question and answer session at the Legislature that he would like to make an appearance and that he has been in touch with the organizer for details.

The demonstration will be the second staged by an outraged public over the death of Corporal Hung Chung-chiu, who died July 4 of severe heatstroke and multiple organ failure after being subjected to grueling physical exercise as part of a punishment for bringing a camera phone onto his base — an infraction that normally merits only administrative discipline.

The first march, which took place July 20, saw 30,000 demonstrators dressed in white surrounding the Ministry of Defense, demanding the truth and military transparency. Yang’s comments came after 18 senior officers and non-commissioned officers, including former 542 Armored Brigade Commander Maj. Gen. Shen Wei-chih, were indicted that day for offenses against individual freedom and the collective abuse of Hung.

On comments by opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tsai Huang-liang that the indictment was aimed at closing the case as soon as possible to avoid it being handed over to a non-military courts, Yang would not be drawn, saying only that he “respects the investigation results by military prosecutors.”

Meanwhile that day, former DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen visited Hung’s family and said their son’s death is a tragic event for Taiwanese society, adding that the government should shoulder the biggest share of responsibility.

Tsai told Hung’s parents that the government finally moved to investigate the case because of their insistence on finding out the truth and she expressed hope that the case will hopefully mark the beginning of social reforms.