- Posted May 22, 2014 by
Taiwan military cover up death, sergeant’s mother passed out during hunger strike
On May 17, Yu Jui-ming passed out after seven days into her hunger strike outside the Ministry of National Defense (MND), in a last effort to get justice for her son’s death. Yu’s son, Tsai Hsuen-liang is a volunteered air force sergeant in Taiwan military. Tsai was found killed by gun shot at the military’s target practice range on May 9, 2008.
Military autopsy report claims that Tsai shot himself in the mouth with a T65 rifle. Yu along with several civil coroners contested the military’s suicide claim and asserted that Tsai’s bullet wound is caused by a pistol instead. Independent ballistics tests conducted in United States, paid by Yu, affirmed that Tsai’s injury cannot be self-inflicted with T65 rifle.
In September last year, Taiwan High Court issued request to MND, Bureau of Investigation and Criminal Investigation Bureau to conduct the ballistic testing. Since then it is a merry-go-around between the Bureaus saying the testing could not be done, and MND saying the case is still pending with the court. In an attempt to move the ballistic test forward, Yu began her hunger strike outside MND’s door on Mother’s Day April 11, Yu declared “I will not eat until the ministry agrees to the ballistics test.”
Tsai’s case is not rare in Taiwan’s military, where abuse of soldiers is rampant and all complains on the military are handled by MND itself. Hundreds of soldiers died every year during military service, though Taiwan has no war engagement over 20 years. The deaths are usually reported as suicide or illness by the military coroner, thus obliterating any officer to be held responsible.
Media and victim families have criticized President Ma Ying-jeou’s administration for allowing the military to continue operate in opaqueness. Public anger reached its boiling point last July, when Hong Chung-chui, a young conscript, died of intravascular coagulation triggered by excessive workout regime and lack of water. Hong’s death sparked an estimated of 250,000 protesters to march onto the Presidential Office. The protestors demanded abolishing the martial law, and transferring the responsibility of death investigation and trial from military to civil legal system. All of the demands were agreed by Ma’s administration.
One year on Yu is still fighting to get her promised ballistic test, though she is not alone. When she held a tribute to Tsai’s birthday on May 13 outside of the MND building, more than a hundred supporters showed up to show their support. On May 16, when Yu became unconscious and was rushed to the hospital for stabilization, she received a sea of cards and flowers.
In recent protests, the incompetency of Mr. Ma’s administration to adhere to citizen’s demand has created public outrage across political spectrum. Delay in bringing promised reform to the military justice system will likely to further erode public support for the administration. With an 8% approval rate, Mr. Ma should bring on the reforms now before the people take on the streets again. After all, serving the people is what politicians in a democracy do.