TAIPEI, Taiwan — The former chief of military intelligence for Taiwan and two of his subordinates were indicted by military prosecutors Tuesday in connection with the Oct. 15 murder in California of Chinese-American journalist Henry Liu.
The indictment accuses Vice Adm. Wang Hsi-ling, 58, of instigating the killing of Liu, which was allegedly carried out by three members of Taiwan's United Bamboo gang--Chen Chi-li, Wu Tun and Tung Kuei-sen. Chen and Wu already have been named in separate murder charges and face an April 2 trial. Tung is still at large.
The scenario outlined in the indictment as the "criminal facts" of the case squarely pins responsibility for the crime on Wang and alleges that his actions were based on personal motives. It thus deflects suggestions by Liu's widow and others that the murder may have been approved at higher levels of the Taiwan government.
Wang's subordinates, former deputy director Hu Yi-min, 58, and Chen Hu-men, 41, a deputy department head, were accused Tuesday of assisting in a homicide.
Killed in Daly City
Liu, a 51-year-old naturalized American who wrote critically of the Taiwan government in books and in the Chinese language press in the United States, was shot to death in the garage at his home in Daly City, a suburb of San Francisco. Liu's widow and others have asserted that Liu was murdered at the order of the Taiwan government in retaliation for his writings.
The date of the intelligence officials' trial was not announced Tuesday, but authorities have said that it will be a public trial before a panel of five military judges. Murder convictions in Taiwan carry sentences ranging from 10 years to life imprisonment, or the death penalty.
According to the indictment, which in effect becomes the official government version of events, the murder plot had its origins at an Aug. 2, 1984, dinner attended by Wang, Chen Chi-li and others. Wang "had just got wind of information that Henry Liu was not happy with him, personally, and further, that Liu meant to initiate actions detrimental to him." The indictment, however, gives no further hint of what sort of action Liu might have been able to take that would be detrimental to Wang.
During the Aug. 2 conversation, according to the indictment, "Wang Hsi-ling mentioned that Henry Liu, once educated here and favorably treated in this country, in frequent writings was denigrating this government and trying to smear this country's image. Chen Chi-li then immediately declared that such persons should be taught a lesson and indicated that he, himself, could be trusted with the assignment."
Agreed on Action
Wang later "agreed that Chen should give Liu a lesson during Chen's forthcoming trip to the United States," the indictment charges.
The version of events presented in the indictment means that the government remains fully committed to its insistence that whatever Wang and his subordinates may have done, no one above the intelligence bureau chief was involved in the crime.
Whether any one above Wang was involved in the murder has been an extraordinarily sensitive issue for the government because many Taiwan residents believe that Chiang Hsiao-wu, 39, second son of President Ching Ching-kuo, has an influential behind-the-scenes role in Taiwan's security network. Gang associates of Chen Chi-li have also claimed that Ching Hsiao-wu was friendly with the gang leader.
Chiang Hsiao-wu, president of the Broadcasting Corp. of China, has denied any role in the intelligence network and any relationship with Chen Chi-li.
To Absolve Higher-Ups
A relative of Chen Chi-li in Taipei, who spoke with The Times this week on condition that he not be named, said Chen Chi-li does not and will not claim that anyone higher than Wang was involved in the plot against Liu.
"Chen Chi-li has not said this," the relative said.
The key point to Chen Chi-li's defense, he added, is that the gang leader acted "based on what Wang told him" and "had a spirit of patriotism in doing this act." If Wang and his subordinates are also found guilty of criminal acts, then the sentence against Chen Chi-li should be lighter, he said.
The indictment issued Tuesday does not take a clear position as to whether Wang only asked Chen Chi-li to "give Liu a lesson" or whether he told the gangster to kill Liu.
The indictment quotes an allegation by Chen Chi-li that Wang had told him: "Henry Liu must be killed." But it also states that "Wang denies it, contending that he referred to a 'lesson' at that time, without further explanation, and did not mean Liu should be put to death."
Furnished Photo, Address
The indictment argues, however, that "Wang knew clearly that Chen Chi-li was a leader of a criminal organization . . . who had a previous criminal record of implication in homicide. Wang provided Liu's photo and address, and other information about Henry Liu; he consented to Chen Chi-li's offer to give Henry Liu a 'lesson,' but did not make it clear what the so-called 'lesson' really meant."
The indictment cites testimony that "Wang Hsi-ling had learned that Henry Liu had a grudge against him and that Liu was going to initiate action to Wang's disadvantage. By inference, not only was the possibility of Chen Chi-li's murder of Henry Liu foreseen by Wang Hsi-ling, but its occurence was not contrary to Wang's will."
In Daly City, Helen Liu, widow of the slain writer, denounced the government's depiction of the motive for the killing as "total lies" designed to distance high Taiwan government officials from the murder.
"The government wants to show that this was all Wang's personal decision and that officials higher up were not involved," Mrs. Liu said.