The death of a serviceman that shook a nation

The death of a serviceman that shook a nation

By Terry Xu


Every night without fail, I get to watch news from Taiwan due to my dad’s keen interest in news from the republic. Maybe to my dad, it is simply just so intriguing to see all the fine details about the local news in Taiwan that the media dig out with their own sources and reporting it out without fear of the government’s intervention.

For those who have not been following the news in Taiwan, the hottest news in the republic is the story of a national serviceman, 24-year-old Corporal Hung Chung-chiu who has been said to been drilled to his death in a military brig just three days before he was due for discharge from his compulsory military service on 3rd July 2013.

What is interesting about this incident is the development of the story as the local media slowly reveal facts and details day after day over the unusual circumstances leading to the death of the serviceman as the designated investigation team for his death trails closely behind the breadcrumbs dropped for them.

From the initial official statement that Corporal Hung died due to exhaustion to the charging of about twenty servicemen for their negligence of duty and direct involvement in the death of Corporal Hung. From sergeants all the way to the Defence Minister, no one is spared from the repercussion of the investigations. The former defence minister,  Kao Hua-chu tendered his resignation earlier this week and has been replaced by his deputy defence minister, Andrew Yang who has no prior connections to the military to defray public suspicion that there will still be further cover ups by the military.

More than 250,000 Taiwanese people took to the streets at Ketagalan Boulevard on Saturday,3rd August 2013 in protest over Corporal Hung’s death. This is the second protest held in connection with the death of Corporal Hung. The first protest was held outside the defence ministry in the capital on July 20 by an estimated crowd of 30,000.

The mother of Corporal Hung said on stage at the protest that she rushed to the hospital on 3rd of July after receiving a call from the army. She came face to face with a person who did not resemble his son as she saw Corporal Hung being filled with tubes stuck into his body. 3rd of July thus became the most heartbreaking day for her. A optimistic and lively child gone just like that with just a 3 word explanation from the military, “熱中暑” (heat exhaustion)

Legal representative for the Hung family, Qiu Xianzhi said the military issued the certificate of death even before an autopsy was performed, and declared that the death of Corporal Hung was due to an accident. He explains that he is at Ketagalan Boulevard in protest , not just for Corporal Hung but also for the next person who will die due to “suicide” and “accidental death”.

President Ma Ying-jeou has repeatedly apologised for the incident and vowed to seek justice for the victim and will not fail to punish those responsible for Corporal Hung’s death.

The  investigative reports by the Mainstream Media had played an important role in the development of what seemed to be an innocent case of freak accident of a serviceman to a case which is now said to be a deliberate act of corporal punishment by army officials through various form of administrative manipulation. All these reports were based on insider sources of the army and connections between the dots of how events would have transpired to have resulted in this tragedy.

The Taiwan army is having a hard time holding their heads up in the face of public discontent over how they have handled the situation, and already the case have been transferred out of the hands of the military court and into the state judiciary as they has lost the public’s trust over a fair prosecution if it were to be further handled by the military.  The pillar of trust for the army have literally collapsed over what has transpired over the course of less than a month.

The investigation continues as the Taiwan media outlets and the prosecution continue its search for truth and the sake of justice for the deceased and his family. Though for the time being, Corporal Hung’s mother has expressed her wish that everyone could put away all the grudges just for a day as they send him off in his final journey on Sunday.

Come to think of it. if this were to happen in Singapore for the army or any ministries (which I am sure there wouldn’t be such a case),  the news for this story which would be covered by our local mainstream media (Awarded with 149th in terms of press freedom by Reporters Without Borders) might just turn up like this on the 4th or 5th page on the printed press,

“Serviceman died of heatstroke, Army express their condolences for the family”

A 24 year old serviceman has died from heatstroke while he was in the military brig. The Army has ceased all drills in the military brig to conduct a thorough review over current practices before drills would to be resumed. They express their sincere condolences towards the family of the deceased serviceman and will be in close contact with the family to help them through this trying period from the lost of a beloved family member.

The end and everyone lived happily ever after

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