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May 27, 2017

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Lenient sentence for runaway officer sends wrong message

On March 7, a court in Taoyuan handed down lenient sentences, ranging from six to eight months, to all 18 defendants involved in the high-profile case of the death of Army Corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘).

The ruling immediately prompted outcry from Hung's family and the general public, who believe the 18 suspects deserve harsher sentences over Hung's death.

Media coverage on the ruling was widespread. Nearly 100 journalists were present outside the court to record the incident and the public's reaction to it. TV talk shows have also been heatedly debating the ruling.

Only four days later, another high-profile case centering on a former military officer, however, has drawn little attention.

Emily Yeh (葉玫), a former military intelligence officer who ran away from her post to the United Kingdom for over 18 months, was given a suspended 10-month prison sentence by a Taichung court, suspended for four years.

Yeh, 33, who has been detained since she was deported back to Taiwan from the UK earlier this year, was also asked to serve 200 hours of community service, and was promptly released on NT$50,000 bail.

The ruling means the runaway ex-intel officer will not spend a day in prison unless she violates the Criminal Code within four years.

For those who have served in the military or for anyone who has a vague understanding on exactly how serious and irresponsible it is for a military personnel to abandon his/her post, the Taichung court's decision is hard to believe.

Yeh was charged as "absent without official leave" and was facing a maximum five-year sentence according to the Article 39 of the Criminal Code of the Armed Forces. Yeh herself also admitted that she is guilty of the charge during court hearing.

The suspended prison term, which is extremely light in comparison with Yeh's offense, surprisingly has drawn little response from the Taiwanese public and media.

Most Taiwanese people and local media outlet seems to regard Yeh's case as a joke.

However, The China Post believes that the ruling does deserve more attention from the public because it could send a wrong message to all Taiwanese servicemen and women in the armed forces.

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