TAIPEI — Taiwan’s scholar-turned defense minister resigned Tuesday after he was accused of plagiarism, less than a week after taking office to replace his predecessor, who also stepped down.
Andrew Yang was promoted last week from deputy minister after his boss, Kao Hua-chu, had to resign over the death of a young conscript in an alleged military abuse case that has sparked outrage across the island.
Yang’s surprise resignation came after Kuan Pi-ling, a legislator from the major opposition Democratic Progressive Party, accused him of plagiarism over an article published in a book in 2007.
Kuan claimed the article, an analysis on the People’s Liberation Army that had both Yang and a friend’s name on it, plagiarized material from a Chinese mainland magazine.
“I didn’t know that he (his friend) had plagiarized much from an article printed in a mainland magazine,” Yang told reporters in a late night press conference.
“This was my personal error. I want to apologize,” Yang added, refusing to take any further queries from reporters.
Yang said he told President Ma Ying-jeou and Premier Jiang Yi-huah that he was resigning because “my personal error has undermined the government’s and the military’s honor when the government and the military are facing huge challenges.”
Li Jia-fei, spokeswoman for President Ma Ying-jeou, said the resignation had been approved.
Only nine days earlier, Yang’s predecessor, Kao Hua-chu, stepped down after the death of corporal Hung Chung-chiu triggered two massive demonstrations in Taipei.
An investigation by military prosecutors found Hung died of heatstroke July 4, just three days before the end of his compulsory year-long military service.
His family said he was forced to do excessive exercise as punishment for taking a smartphone onto his army base.
Hung’s family said he was repeatedly refused water during the punishment despite being close to collapse, and that he had previously filed complaints about other abuse meted out by his superiors.
Yang, who did not come from Taiwan’s military ranks and was an academic at Sun Yat-sen University in Kaohsiung before he joined the government, had won praise for his patient and humble approach to those protesting over Hung’s death.
He was seen bowing to protesters even when objects were being hurled at him.
A total of 18 military officials were indicted last week over Hung’s death, including the former commander of his brigade, after military prosecutors completed their investigation.
They were indicted on charges ranging from abuse leading to death and involuntary manslaughter to imposing illegal punishment on a subordinate and offences against personal liberty.