Driver of fatal Taiwan train crash apologizes to relatives

Yu Cheng-chung, center, driver of the Puyuma Express train that derailed on October 21, kneels as he is escorted by relatives of victims who died in the accident during a memorial ceremony. (CNA / AFP)
Updated 31 October 2018

Driver of fatal Taiwan train crash apologizes to relatives

  • It was the first time driver Yu Cheng-chung had spoken in public since the Puyuma Express derailed on October 21
  • ‘I’m sorry, this will be forever a pain in my heart’

TAIPEI: The driver of a train that derailed and killed 18 people this month apologized to victims’ families at an emotional memorial service in southern Taiwan Wednesday after being accused of “professional negligence” by a court.
It was the first time driver Yu Cheng-chung had spoken in public since the Puyuma Express derailed on October 21. He wept uncontrollably as he knelt and apologized at the memorial in Taitung county, home to 15 of the dead.
“I’m sorry, this will be forever a pain in my heart,” he said in footage aired on local television.
The crash on the popular east coast line also injured over 200 people and left the carriages lying zig-zagged across the tracks in the island’s deadliest rail accident for a quarter century.
Flags at government buildings in Taitung flew at half-mast in memory of the victims while Premier William Lai also attended the memorial service to pay his respects.
Relatives at the service appeared forgiving.
“Please don’t be like this, we don’t blame you,” one woman identified by local media by her family name Tung told Yu. She had lost eight family members in the crash.
“Let’s find out the truth together,” she said.
Yu is suspected of negligence for switching off the Automatic Train Protection (ATP) system used to monitor speed before the train flipped off the tracks, according to initial findings by a local district court.
As the train approached Xinma station, the site of the crash, it was traveling at 140 kilometers per hour (87 miles per hour) instead of the 80 kph speed limit imposed due to a curve in the track, said the Yilan district court which questioned Yu as part of his bail hearing last week.
A special cabinet task force has said its initial probe also showed that the ATP system was turned off at the time the train derailed and it was traveling at excessive speed.
The crash was the worst rail accident in Taiwan since 1991, when 30 passengers were killed and 112 injured after two trains collided in Miaoli in western Taiwan.


Hong Kong protesters sing ‘God Save the Queen’ in plea to former colonial power

Updated 15 September 2019

Hong Kong protesters sing ‘God Save the Queen’ in plea to former colonial power

  • The Chinese-ruled territory has been rocked by weeks of sometimes violent pro-democracy protests
  • Demonstrators angry about what they see as creeping interference by Beijing in their city’s affairs despite a promise of autonomy

HONG KONG: Hundreds of Hong Kong protesters singing “God Save the Queen” and waving Union Jack flags rallied outside the British Consulate on Sunday demanding that the former colonial power ensures China honors its commitments to the city’s freedoms.
The Chinese-ruled territory has been rocked by weeks of sometimes violent pro-democracy protests, with demonstrators angry about what they see as creeping interference by Beijing in their city’s affairs despite a promise of autonomy.
The Sino-British Joint Declaration, signed in 1984, lays out Hong Kong’s future after its return to China in 1997, a “one country, two systems” formula that ensures freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland.
“Sino-British Joint Declaration is VOID,” one placard read. “SOS Hong Kong,” read another.
“One country, two systems is dead,” they shouted in English under the sub-tropical sun, some carrying the colonial flag also bearing the Union Jack. “Free Hong Kong.”
With many young people looking for routes out of Hong Kong, campaigners say Britain should change the status of the British National (Overseas) passport, a category created after Britain returned Hong Kong to China. The passports allow a holder to visit Britain for six months, but do not come with an automatic right to live or work there.
“I am here to demand the UK protect our citizens’ rights in Hong Kong and speak up for Hong Kong under the Joint Declaration,” Jacky Tsang, 25, told Reuters.
The spark for the protests was planned legislation, now withdrawn, that would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial, despite Hong Kong having its own much-respected independent judiciary.
The protests have since broadened into calls for universal suffrage.
China says it is committed to the “one country, two systems” arrangement, denies meddling and says the city is an internal Chinese issue. It has accused foreign powers, particularly the United States and Britain, of fomenting the unrest and told them to mind their own business.
Britain says it has a legal responsibility to ensure China abides by the 1984 declaration.
“The Joint Declaration is a legally binding treaty between the UK and China that remains as valid today as it was when it was signed and ratified over 30 years ago,” a British Foreign Office spokeswoman said in June.
“As a co-signatory, the UK government will continue to defend our position.”
But it was not immediately clear what Britain could or would want to do defend that position. It is pinning its hopes on closer trade and investment cooperation with China, which since 1997 has risen to become the world’s second-largest economy, after it leaves the European Union at the end of next month.
The Civil Human Rights Front has also called for a mass rally in Victoria Park, just to the east of the central business district, but police have denied permission because of earlier clashes after huge gatherings.
Protesters are expected to turn up early in the afternoon anyway.