The Taiwanese President apologised for the death of a soldier whilst under confinement in a military prison, and ordered military officials to investigate the tragedy.
Ma Ying-jeou said he was “deeply sorry and also have a responsibility to express my regret to the relatives of Hung Chung-chiu and the country.”
Hung Chung-chiu died on July 3, after being forced to perform a vigorous regime of sit-ups, push-ups, jumping jacks and squats in sweltering heat at a base in suburban Taipei.
A university graduate, Hung was only three days away from completing his mandatory 20-month service requirement when he died.
His punishment was ordered because he brought a banned cell phone onto his base.
His death set off a wave of anger in the country, undermining Ma’s already low popularity and raising hard questions about the future of the island’s military.
Ma went on to delineate a series of detailed instructions he has given to high ranking Defence Ministry personnel, aimed at finding out precisely how Hung died.
A protest vigil and march was held at the University of Taichung on Saturday, where a video of Chung-chiu was played.
Ma’s gesture aside, the real significance of the Hung case lies in the damage it may do to Taiwan’s military, now in the midst of an ambitious transition from a mixed force of conscripts and volunteers to an all-volunteer army.
China and Taiwan split amid civil war in 1949, and China continues to see the island as part of its territory, to be brought back into the fold by persuasion if possible, by force if necessary.
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