Taiwan defence minister to step down amid public outcry over death of soldier

In this photo taken Monday, July 15, 2013, Taiwanese Defense Minister Kao Hua-chu bows in a sign of remorse for the death earlier this month of army recruit Hung Chung-chiu during a press conference at the Ministry of Defense in Taipei, Taiwan. 
In this photo taken Monday, July 15, 2013, Taiwanese Defense Minister Kao Hua-chu bows in a sign of remorse for the death earlier this month of army recruit Hung Chung-chiu during a press conference at the Ministry of Defense in Taipei, Taiwan. Taiwan's government said on Monday that the defence minister will step down amid a public outcry over the death of a soldier. -- PHOTO: AP

TAIPEI (AFP) - Taiwan's defence minister has resigned over the death of a corporal who was allegedly being abused in the military, it was reported on Monday in a case that has sparked outrage across the island.

Mr Kao Hua-chu will be succeeded by his deputy Andrew Yang, the state Central News Agency said, adding that the announcement will be made in a press conference to be chaired by Premier Jiang Yi-huah on Monday afternoon.

The resignation, if confirmed, was apparently aimed at pacifying outrage over the death of corporal Hung Chung-chiu, who died of heatstroke apparently caused by being forced to exercise excessively.

He died on July 4, just three days before he was due to be discharged following completion of his compulsory year-long military service.

Allegations of abuse and misconduct have snowballed in local media, including claims that Corporal Hung's superiors refused to give him water during an exercise session despite his repeated requests.

He was reportedly at odds with his superiors for making complaints against them, with local media saying he had been placed in solitary confinement for taking a smartphone into the army base.

Both President Ma Ying-jeou and the defence minister have apologised for the tragedy, vowing to thoroughly investigate the case and severely punish those responsible.

Currently four military officials have been detained by authorities on abuse charges in connection to the case, while punitive measures have been taken with regards to 26 others.

But the investigation has failed to appease public ire, with thousands of people demonstrating outside the defence ministry in Taipei earlier this month.