TAIPEI, Taiwan - The Ministry of National Defence's (MND) recent decision to punish an Army lieutenant over an online statement in support of Taiwan independence became a topic of heated debate between lawmakers yesterday.
During an interpellation session in the Legislature's Diplomacy and National Defence Committee yesterday, opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tsai Huang-liang questioned the decision of the military to punish Lieutenant Tsai Yueh-sheng.
According to the DPP lawmaker, the lieutenant recently posted a message on his Facebook page saying, "I support Taiwan independence. I am a voluntary serviceman. I do not vote for the Kuomintang."
Tsai was later given two demerits by the Army and asked to deactivate his Facebook account.
The opposition lawmaker accused the MND of violating political neutrality in punishing Tsai for his personal political views and his decision not to vote for the ruling Kuomintang (KMT).
"Many retired generals have repeatedly made open statements on the other side of the Taiwan Strait to support Taiwan-China unification, why can't the Army lieutenant expresses his own opinion?" the lawmaker asked.
Asked to comment, Defence Minister Yen Ming, who fielded questions during the session, said Tsai was punished not because of his political views but because he failed to maintain the neutrality befitting military personnel.
"Of course he can have his own political affiliation. However, as military personnel, he should not openly discuss his views, which could influence other people," Yen said.
The Army did not levy punishment on Tsai because of his political views, the minister added.
Meanwhile, the military's decision to punish the serviceman was supported by KMT lawmaker Lin Yu-fang.
Speaking during the same session, Lin said Tsai deserves punishment because he is a soldier of the Republic of China Armed Forces.
Military personnel who support Taiwanese independence should leave the armed forces because they vowed to defend the R.O.C. upon joining the military, Lin said.
Supporting Taiwan independence means the soldier has abandoned the R.O.C., the KMT legislator said.