Taiwanese Facebook Users Are Tagging a Death Row Inmate in Their Travels to Demand Justice

The cover page in facebook for 'Cheng Hsin-Tze plays around the world.' CC BY-NC 2.0.

The cover image for Facebook group ‘Cheng Hsin-Tze plays around the world.’ CC BY-NC 2.0.

Taiwan is one of the world's 40 countries that maintain the death penalty in both law and practice. Twenty-six prisoners were executed between 2010 and 2014 in the East Asian island nation.

Human right groups have advocated for the abolition of capital punishment in the island country by throwing the spotlight on specific death row cases. One of them is the case of Cheng Hsin-Tse, who was found guilty in 2006 of murdering a police officer in 2002 in a karaoke entertainment room. According to Cheng's testimony, the cop was killed by his friend who was also shot dead in the KTV. Cheng's fingerprints were not found on the gun and an eyewitness testified that Cheng was sitting besides him when the shooting took place.

As there is no direct evidence against Cheng, the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty appealed to the Department of Justice to review the case. But authorities are reluctant to re-open the file, so the civic group has decided to advocate for Cheng on Facebook.

People brought the figure of Cheng Hsin-Tze to the 2014 LGBTQ Pride Parade. Photo by Lin Hsinyi. CC BY-NC 2.0.

People brought the figure of Cheng Hsin-Tze to the 2014 LGBT Pride Parade. Photo by Lin Hsinyi. CC BY-NC 2.0.

The group created a Facebook user account for Cheng Hsin-Tze and created an event, “Cheng Hsin-Tze plays around the world,” inviting other Facebook users to tag Cheng, who has been behind bars for more than 12 years, when they are enjoying their freedom traveling around the world.

Chang Chuan-Fen, a writer who focuses on human rights, helped promote the event on her blog:




This is not the first time that activists have used Facebook as a tool to spread awareness. Nevertheless, this special event creates some effects that we have not seen before. Every Facebook user can join this event no matter where they are as long as they care about this topic and are willing to participate. The way to participate is to tag #ChengHsin-Tze when they update their status on Facebook. […]

The rule of ‘Cheng Hsin-Tze plays around the world’ is very simple: tag Cheng Hsin-Tze so that you can share these life events with him, let him smell the world and let other see the views of Cheng's supporters. […]

People who participate this event are heartily praying for him, ‘I am home, and I hope Hsin-Tze can go home soon.’ The effect of this event is to have him firmly in our thoughts.

Two Tze in Central, Hong Kong.  Reneedog's photo on Facebook.

Two Tze in Central, Hong Kong. Reneedog's photo on Facebook.

In about two week's time, 6,300 Facebook members have joined the event, and these people have tagged him from 16 countries with Cheng Hsin-Tze.

Reneedog Lamia, a lawyer, joined the event by posting a photo of a cut-out of Cheng Hsin-Tze posed next to his friend, whose Chinese name also carries the word “Tze”. The photo was taken in Central, the financial district of Hong Kong. He asked the question: what if “Tze” was your friend?


[…] 「可是……如果他真的是壞人呢?」

The goal of these tags is for Cheng Hsin-Tze's case to be re-evaluated, not for him to be released unconditionally.
If Cheng Hsin-Tze has been treated unjustly, after a right and thorough investigation, we should release him immediately, and the justice system should take responsibility. This [Facebook] event is to demand that our justice system take responsibility.
If Cheng Hsin-Tze is treated unjustly and we cannot save him, the sounds of his execution by firing squad will speak to us: ‘You are guilty because you are poor, you have a bad friend, and you go to karaoke at night. You are guilty because you had bad luck, and you are doomed.’

[…] ‘What if he really is a criminal?’
If your family member, friend or even yourself were in the position that Cheng Hsin-Tze finds himself in, what would you hope people would assume, [that he is guilty]?
If the goal of justice is to avoid unjust treatment and connivance, the former one is more valuable and important than the later.

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