Tuesday, February 10, 2015

It takes courage

The Taiwan High Court yesterday overturned the ruling made by the Taoyuan District Court about those involved in the death of Army Corporal Hung Zhong-chiu in summer 2013. Harsher punishments were given to the military personnel responsible for Hung’s death.

Found violating regulations by sneaking a cellphone to the base, Hung, a young college graduate serving his compulsory military service at Army’s 542nd Brigade, was sent to the brig as punishment just one week before his due discharge. At the confinement cell there under intense physical exercises under the sun of July, heatstroke succumbed Hung to multiple organ failures that subsequently led to his death.

Despite the fact that Hung did violate regulations, as a noncommissioned officer (NCO), was he subject to confinement? According to the Armed Forces’ Code, if an NCO breaks any regulations at the camp, he is subject to disciplinary training, demotion, demerit on the service record, pay cut or reprimand as punishment. Note here, no confinement. And the disciplinary training means a reformatory training specially designed to correct any enlistees or NCOs whose misconducts are not as serious to be sent to a court martial. Such training is conducted by a special unit under the supervision of the Inspector General of Army’s Political Warfare Department’s Section 3 attached to the Army Headquarters. The confinement cell set up by an ordinary armored brigade level is only good for enlistee violators of misdemeanors.

Then why was Hung still sent to the brig? In order to get Hung sent to the confinement cell, the paper work needed was processed by more than two dozens of officers and NCOs. Why was there no one sensing the procedural flaws? The inquiries done later did show that few low-ranked personnel did cast their doubts over the discrepancies, but they kept their mouths shut when the commanding officer of the 542nd Brigade, a major general inked the order.

After Hung’s death, his family and over a quarter million people rallied to protest the injustice. A month later the Legislature Yuan amended related laws and had the military hand over their jurisdictions of this case to civilian prosecutors.

For those few low-ranked NCOs and officers who questioned about the proper procedures of sending Hung to the brig, we could not ask for more why they did not go on doing something to stop this tragedy. As we all know that the military is a close environment where chain of command is regarded sacred than anything else, we cannot really expect anyone to stand out when they witness injustice. What we can rely on is making better laws to assure that Hung is the last victim.  

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