New webinar series: Administrative Violence and the Tai Ji Men Case
A Webinar on the Fabricated Tai Ji Men Case in Taiwan
LOS ANGELES, Sept. 02, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — With the Delta variant raging as well as wars and man-made and natural disasters reoccurring in various regions of the planet, global citizens’ hearts are filled with anxiety. On August 22, the International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief, Dr. Hong, Tao-Tze, the leader of Tai Ji Men, delivered a speech titled “Safeguarding Freedom of Religion or Belief with Love and Conscience,” emphasizing the importance of human rights and conscience:
Today, we are discussing cases of violations of freedom of religion, freedom of belief, and freedom of thought in the context of human dignity, which is related to the dignity of the legal system, freedom of conscience, and the rights and well-being of all people. Only those who can uphold their faith and belief, who will not compromise with any force of evil, and who will protect basic human dignity, safeguard their conscience, and defend human rights with love and conscience, are practitioners of self-betterment that can tell right from wrong, stand tall, and are brave and fearless!
Dr. Hong and Tai Ji Men have been persecuted by a few rogue bureaucrats in Taiwan for 24 years, and they have been devoted to promoting human rights and religious freedom in the past few years. On this special day, CESNUR (Center for Studies on New Religions), and Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF), and the Action Alliance to Redress 1219 co-hosted four webinars under the theme of “Administrative Violence and the Tai Ji Men Case,” where religious freedom experts, scholars, and Tai Ji Men members discussed the case.
The webinars opened with a video presentation of a recent Tai Ji Men’s demonstration in Washington, D.C. Tai Ji Men is a spiritual organization with academies in Taiwan and the United States. It has been religiously persecuted in democratic Taiwan by means of unlawful taxation. Despite the fact that Tai Ji Men was found not guilty of tax evasion or any other charges by Taiwan’s Supreme Court in 2007, rogue bureaucrats continued to levy unwarranted taxes on Tai Ji Men and even illegally auctioned and confiscated their land intended for a spiritual retreat last August.
Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, president of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice and former chair of U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said, “In Taiwan, the long running attack against the Tai Ji Men community by bureaucratic despots within the tax administration have led many religious freedom experts around the world to condemn this form of administrative religious persecution.”
Thierry Valle, president of the ECOSOC-accredited NGO CAP-LC (Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience), stated that his NGO submitted a written statement about the Tai Ji Men case and other unjust cases to the 47th Session of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council. The statement, published on June 21, 2021, indicated that in various countries, taxation has been used as a weapon to discriminate against religious and spiritual minorities.
Kenneth Jacobsen, a law professor at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and a former advisor to U.S. President Bill Clinton, has studied in depth the Tai Ji Men case. He said, “I would ask as I’ve asked before for the president of Taiwan and for others that are in positions of power to do the right thing, to remove this blemish that remains on a very disturbing unfair illegal unlawful case that should have been never brought in the first place that has gone on far too long. And with a stroke of a pen could be eliminated and finally concluded. And I think the government of Taiwan should do that, and they should do it now.”
Willy Fautré, director of HRWF, explored many forms of religious or belief-based violence, including taxes. He said, “Some scholars suspect that the case against Tai Ji Men was fabricated because of alluring bonuses granted to officers of the National Tax Bureau and the Enforcement Agency for the enforcement of auctions.”
Eric Roux, chairperson of the European Interreligious Forum for Religious Freedom, emphasized that when injustice occurs in a democracy, the impact can be worse than in a totalitarian state because it lowers the global standard of democracy and sends the message that injustice is unimportant and that the world has no way of holding it accountable.
Prof. Chang Chia-Lin from Taipei’s Aletheia University urged the Taiwanese government to end the persecution, asking, “Is our government going to follow the example of an authoritarian regime and continue to persecute Tai Ji Men, which promotes conscience, acts of kindness, peace, and love?”
Rosita Šorytė, a member of the Scientific Committee of European Federation for Freedom of Belief, said that it is clear that institutional violence was used against Tai Ji Men. Taiwan needs international support all the time, and this unjust case is severely harming Taiwan’s international reputation, said Šorytė, urging the Taiwanese government to cancel the unjustified tax bill and return the unlawfully confiscated land to Tai Ji Men.
According to Dr. Chun-Chieh Hwang, a law professor at Taiwan’s National Chung Cheng University, the confiscation of Tai Ji Men’s land last August was not just a violation of property rights, but also of cultural and religious rights. He believes International experts should inform Taiwanese authorities that the situation violates universal human rights. He described Tai Ji Men as a beneficent organization and expressed his hope that its message of peace for Taiwan and the world will resonate around the world.
Hans Noot, president of the Gerard Noodt Foundation for Freedom of Religion or Belief, criticized the lack of accountability in the case: “It sends the message to the public that the national tax office can get away with impunity, and it is above the law rather than a servant of the law and the people. The message too is that religious freedom and freedom of expression is all relative in Taiwan.”
Prof. Lin, Jun-Lin, chairman of Chinese Orthodox Alliance, said, “I implore our government to allow people to live and work in peace and happiness, as well as enjoy complete freedom of religion or belief, which will aid the government in calming the people’s hearts. Don’t put us all in danger and disturb our peace of mind. Hurry up and return justice to Tai Ji Men, which is the same as returning justice to all of us. We are always with you, Tai Ji Men members. Your business is already the business of all people!”
Kang Shih-Ju, a former Taiwanese legislator, advocated for the Tai Ji Men case to be resolved, saying, “No matter what your political party is, I would admire you if you could put an end to such a clear and simple case. I would be convinced that the ‘transitional justice’ you are talking about is really related to human rights.”
Brenda Chen, a graphic designer and a Tai Ji Men member in Northern California, told how she left Taiwan to escape the nightmare that Prosecutor Hou Kuan-jen had created for her when he illegally detained her father, Dr. Hong, his wife, and another disciple in 1996. Her father, who passed away seven years ago, lost his career and reputation as a result of Hou’s defamation. They were also discriminated against by their relatives.
A shocking video was introduced by Konrad Swenninger, founder of Soteria International in Denmark. In the video, tax collector Shih Yueh-sheng revealed that he was pressured by prosecutor Hou Kuan-jen to give false testimony against Tai Ji Men 24 years ago. The prosecution relied mainly on the tax collector’s fraudulent testimony to indict Tai Ji Men, and the National Taxation Bureau imposed unjustified taxes on Tai Ji Men based solely on this false indictment.
In the video, Shih Yueh-sheng said that there was no evidence to substantiate the allegation of tax evasion against Tai Ji Men, and that he advised the Investigation Bureau’s field office at the time that issuing tax bills to Tai Ji Men would be problematic because it was unclear how to compute the tax amount. Although the Investigation Bureau’s field office knew it was illegal, it still insisted on asking him to do it! Shih Yueh-sheng said Hou Kuan-jen fabricated the case.
“It proves that what happened was not a mistake,” Prof. Massimo Introvigne, a lawyer, sociologist, and managing director of CESNUR (Center for Studies on New Religions), said of the video, adding, “It was a deliberate framing of Tai Ji Men for obscure motivations through false documents, false accusations, and a false tax investigation that never happened. Now if this is not enough to reopen the Tai Ji Men case and cancel the 1992 tax bill, give back to Tai Ji Men their sacred land, I don’t know what more is needed. It’s a general principle of the law all over the world that when new elements emerge even final decisions can and should be revised. Revision is a fundamental principle of justice.”
To help the audience better understand the case, several videos were presented, including a video titled “18 Years of State Violence Turn a Sweet Home into Ruins,” — the story of Tai Ji Men’s academy on Lai-nan Street in Kaohsiung before and after the organization’s persecution began; a music video titled “The Truth of the Tai Ji Men Case,” succinctly summarizing the case; and a music video titled “No Way,” announcing Tai Ji Men members’ determination to continue the fight for the truth and justice and their declaration that in no way will they compromise or back down.
“Human rights offenders are frequently governments,” said Dr. Hong, the leader of Tai Ji Men, in his speech in support of the World Humanitarian Day on August 19, and he urged people to follow their conscience: “The ultimate judge of the universe is conscience. It is never too late to awaken our conscience and change our ways to atone for our mistakes. Throughout our lives, we should seek the truth, distinguishing true from false, right from wrong, and good from bad, and defending righteousness and justice without fear, despite the obstacles that lie ahead.”
About Action Alliance to Redress 1219: Action Alliance to Redress 1219 is a group of international and Taiwanese legal, religious, and human rights specialists working to restore the truth about the ongoing persecution of Tai Ji Men in Taiwan by a small group of bureaucrats that has lasted for 25 years, as well as their misuse of authority and violations of the law. In addition to rectifying the Tai Ji Men case and revealing the truth, it is also committed to defending religious freedom, speaking out for related injustices in Taiwan. The Alliance calls on those in power not to ignore people’s fundamental human rights and demands that perpetrators be held accountable to protect democracy, the rule of law, and justice.
A photo accompanying this announcement is available at https://www.globenewswire.com/