TAIPEI (AFP) – Taiwan's defence minister has resigned, Premier Jiang Yi-huah said on Monday, after the death of a corporal who was allegedly abused by the military in a case that sparked outrage across the island.
Jiang, who announced the resignation of Kao Hua-chu during a press conference to reveal a cabinet reshuffle, did not elaborate on the reasons for the minister's stepping down.
"The reshuffle is aimed at responding to the general public's expectations. We hope the new cabinet can work to enhance the people's wellbeing," the premier said without taking questions.
Observers say the move was aimed at pacifying outrage over the death of Corporal Hung Chung-chiu.
Hung died on July 4 of heatstroke apparently caused by being forced to exercise excessively. It was 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 Hung's superiors refused to give him water during an exercise session despite his repeated requests.
Hung 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 onto the army base.
Both President Ma Ying-jeou and Kao 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.
The investigation has so far failed to appease public ire, however, with thousands of people demonstrating outside the defence ministry in Taipei earlier this month.
Monday's cabinet reshuffle also involved ministers in charge of financial regulation, veterans affairs, public construction affairs, aboriginal affairs and a minister without portfolio.