“Do you hear the people sing, singing the song of angry men?”
The music swells as a chorus of thousands of protesters walking the streets fills the night. No, this isn’t a scene from the play-turned-movie Les Miserables, but the sentiment in Taiwan is similar.
Over the weekend, roughly 100,000 people gathered in the streets of the capital Taipei, as anger mounted over the suspicious details of the death of 24-year-old conscript Hung Chung-chiu on July 4. The protest was directed at the Ministry of National Defense, the military body that Taiwanese citizens are holding responsible for the death of Hung, who according to the Wall Street Journal, died after being ordered to perform excessive physical activity as a form of punishment. His family claims that Hung was aware of questionable behavior in his military unit and was being punished to prevent exposing the unit’s leaders and practices to the public.
Anger among the Taiwanese public began to mount as Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense was unable to provide missing video surveillance of Hung doing physical activity, after which he lost consciousness. Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou has apologized for the incident and has announced that “severe” justice would be served on the officers involved in the case. The conscript’s family has refused the Ministry’s compensation offer of 100 million Taiwanese dollars (rouyghly 3.3 million in US dollars) and is demanding an investigation by a third party.
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Hung was pronounced dead just 72 hours before he was scheduled to be released from the military. After fulfilling his duty to the military, Hung was set to return to his graduate studies at the National Chengkung University.
Taiwan has held several protests in Hung’s name. Aside from the moving rendition of the revolutionary tune originally from Les Miserables, a July 20 protest had a gathering of about 30,000 people outside the defense ministry in Taipei, organized by activist group Citizen 1985.