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New defense minister to strive for military, human rights reform

ROC Central News Agency

Taipei, July 29 (CNA) The newly appointed Defense Minister Andrew Yang said Monday he will review military administrative, professional certification and supervisory systems to improve human rights following the suspicious death of an army conscript, which has generated public concerns over safety in the military.

The Executive Yuan announced Monday that it has named Yang, who is the first civilian to head the Ministry of National Defense, as the replacement of Kao Hua-chu. Kao had offered to resign after the death of Hung Chung-chiu July 4.

Hung is believed to have died after having been made to undergo punishing exercises for carrying a camera-equipped cell phone on the base.

In an interview with CNA, Yang stated that he will work to ensure that the complaint system related to the perceived mistreatment in the military operates smoothly and that human rights are better protected.

Yang was appointed deputy defense minister four years ago and has played a major role in handling Hung's case.

Since the case came to light, public pressure has mounted, with about 30,000 Internet users demonstrating on July 20 against the death of Hung in front of the headquarters of the Ministry of National Defense. Yang also turned up at the venue to receive petition letters from the protesters. He later also appeared and apologized at a vigil being held the same day for the same cause.

Yang's good communication abilities and pragmatism are also evident in the promotion of a voluntary military service system. He has asked the ministry's information department to compile questions raised by media outlets and has personally replied to these questions.

During his term as deputy defense minister, Yang was in charge of military administration, promoting a voluntary military service system, adjusting the national defense organization, facilitating cooperation among academia, industry and government and improving research and development for the national defense technology. He also visited foreign countries several times for military exchanges.

Yang specializes in the study of U.S.-Taiwan-China relations and is focusing his research on a military mutual trust mechanism across the Taiwan Strait, the Chinese People's Liberation Army and regional safety.

He has been a member of the advisory committee for formulating national defense reports and has attended the Shangri-La Dialogue, which is attended by defense ministers, permanent heads of ministries and military chiefs of 28 Asia-Pacific states, several times.

As the first civilian to serve as defense minister, Yang's primary task after assuming the post will be to allay the public outrage over Hung's suspicious death and carry out military reforms.

(By Chen Pei-huang and Y.L. Kao)

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