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AsiaEVENT: Abusive Taxation and Denial of Justice in Taiwan: The Case of...

EVENT: Abusive Taxation and Denial of Justice in Taiwan: The Case of Tai Ji Men

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Conference at the Press Club in Brussels on 4 May, 3pm – 5pm

Tai Ji Men is a menpai (similar to school) of qigong, martial arts, and self-cultivation, and its shifu (master) and dizi (disciple) have long been committed to international cultural exchanges, spreading the concepts of love, peace, and conscience, purifying people’s hearts, and practicing world peace. It has been highly praised by Taiwanese presidents, vice presidents, and foreign ministers.

Since its inception in 1966, Tai Ji Men Qigong Academy has never had any tax problem; however, in 1996, it was persecuted during a political purge in the name of a religious crackdown. Prosecutor Hou Kuan-jen fabricated witnesses and evidence to falsely accuse Tai Ji Men of fraud and tax evasion. Shih Yueh-sheng, the witness who cooperated with the prosecution and committed perjury, revealed before his death that the case was led by Hou Kuan-jen and that he was asked to testify at the time only for formality. This proves that the Tai Ji Men case was fabricated and framed from the very beginning, and the subsequent criminal prosecution, heavy taxes and penalties, as well as compulsory enforcement were all serious violations of Taiwan’s constitution, human rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ICCPR, and the ICESCR, causing serious harm to Taiwan and its people.

In 2002, the Control Yuan investigated prosecutor Hou Kuan-jen’s handling of the Tai Ji Men case and listed eight major violations of the law by the prosecutor and referred the case to the Ministry of Justice for taking disciplinary action against him.

The Control Yuan, which is the supervisory and auditory branch of the Taiwanese government, stated that the indictment contradicted the evidentiary information and that the prosecution on such a basis was not in accordance with the law of evidence. The prosecutor admitted during the Control Yuan’s investigation that he failed to investigate the matter in accordance with his authority. This proves that the indictment was unlawful in the first place.

The second investigation by the Control Yuan in 2009 also concluded that the National Tax Bureau (NTB) had committed seven major violations of the law in its handling of the Tai Ji Men case, and the NTB admitted during the investigation that it had made mistakes! Once again, it was confirmed that Tai Ji Men should not have been prosecuted and taxed in the first place.

In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that Tai Ji Men was innocent of all charges and did not owe any taxes, that the hong-bao (red envelopes) given by the dizi to the shifu were gifts and tax-free, and that the collective procurement of their uniforms and other items was not for profit. Afterwards, the defendants that were detained received compensation for unlawful imprisonment by the state. This again demonstrates that there are no tax liabilities, and the National Taxation Bureau should have revoked all the illegal tax bills in accordance with the law.

Additionally, the Ministry of Finance and the National Taxation Bureau publicly promised to withdraw the enforcement and conclude the Tai Ji Men tax case within two months during a public hearing in the Legislative Yuan in 2010.

In 2012, the National Taxation Bureau conducted a public survey in accordance with the resolution of the inter-ministerial meeting of the Executive Yuan, and 7401 pieces of evidence were collected, confirming that the red envelopes were gifts, which was consistent with the criminal decision and again confirmed that there was no tax debt.

However, the National Taxation Bureau reneged on its promise, disobeyed the inter-ministerial meeting resolution, ignored the Supreme Court’s decision finding Tai Ji Men not guilty and not owing taxes, and disregarded the two letters issued by the Taipei High Administrative Court on May 5 and July 23, 2020, requesting the withdrawal of the enforcement under Article 40 of the Tax Collection Act.

On August 21, 2020, the National Taxation Bureau, in cooperation with the Administrative Enforcement Agency, unlawfully auctioned Tai Ji Men’s land intended for a self-cultivation center and nationalized it in an attempt to obtain performance credits and bonuses, seriously undermining the shifu’s and dizi’s missions to improve global citizens’ spiritual health, and depriving them of their freedom of religion or belief, as well as their other basic human rights, such as the right to choose cultural life, equality, non-discrimination, and effective remedy, which are explicitly guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ICCPR, the ICESCR, and Taiwan’s constitution.

The Tai Ji Men case has been referred to as a “magical mirror that reflects Taiwan’s legal and tax problems” and “Legal and Tax 228” by scholars and human rights experts. It has been listed by the Control Yuan as a landmark case of human rights violations, and more than 300 legislators of all political parties gave countersignatures, made proposals, questioned government officials, or called press conferences, public hearings, and coordination meetings, pointing out that the National Taxation Bureau broke the law.

In a year or so, over 100 experts and scholars in Taiwan and other countries voiced their support for Tai Ji Men, and more than 100 articles on the Tai Ji Men case were published on human rights platforms, such as Bitter Winter and Human Rights Without Frontiers. The case was also discussed during the International Religious Freedom Summit in Washington, D.C. in 2021 and at an international press conference in Washington, D.C. on December 7, 2021, drawing a lot of attention. An international NGO even submitted two written reports on the Tai Ji Men case to the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2021, condemning the Taiwanese government for its unfair treatment of Tai Ji Men. Twenty-five international scholars and human rights experts even co-signed a letter to President Tsai Ing-wen, expressing their concern and calling on the Taiwanese government to stop violating Tai Ji Men’s human rights.

The Tai Ji Men culture, the human rights of Tai Ji Men’s shifu and dizi, and their freedom of thought and belief have been severely harmed in Taiwan for a quarter of a century.

A peaceful volunteer in support of Tai Ji Men was even illegally investigated and arrested by the police, and the tactics utilized, such as false accusations and smear campaigns, were similar to those used by prosecutor Hou Kuan-jen in the Tai Ji Men case, demonstrating that the authoritarian era’s legacy lives on, persecuting the people.

The Tai Ji Men case is not an isolated case of state violence against the people. We call on the Taiwanese government to:

  1. implement transitional justice, revoke the illegal tax bills, return Tai Ji Men’s sacred land;
  2. restore the reputations of Tai Ji Men shifu and dizi, clear their names, and return justice to them;
  3. severely punish the unscrupulous officials to prevent similar cases from happening again so that Taiwan can become a true democracy respecting the rule of law, freedom, and human rights.

Other article on the case published by The European Times

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