A conference in Taiwan featured an in-depth discussion on how states go beyond their legal and democratic limits. A synthesis of the proceedings.
by Xuan Zhao
An article already published in Bitter Winter on March 16th, 2021.
On the eve of the 74th anniversary of the so-called 228 Incident, 25 civil society organizations, including the Association of World Citizens (AWC) and the Legal and Tax Reform League, organized a seminar on “Reflections on Abusive State Power in the Light of the 228 Incident,” at the International Conference Hall of Yingli Hall, National Taiwan University, Taipei, on February 26, 2021. The 228 incident is the name given in Taiwan to events that happened around February 28, 1947, when tens of thousands died as popular protests were repressed by the government.
Some 30 experts spoke at the seminar. They said that, while the 228 incident is a major national wound for Taiwan and the government has officially extended its apologies, problems for the island’s democracy remain, as evidenced by the Tai Ji Men tax case.
Dr. René Wadlow, President of the Association of World Citizens, connected the United Nations World Day of Social Justice, celebrated on February 20, with the commemoration of the 228 Incident in Taiwan. Both days remind those in power that only by respecting all human rights and fundamental freedoms can social development and social justice be achieved, because the people are the greatest asset in supporting the progress of a democratic country. The World Day of Social Justice, Wadlow said, is a call to all who believe in building rather than destroying, and who embrace diversity as a means of progress rather than as a threat.
Dr. Hong Tao-Tze, vice-president of the Association of World Citizens and Zhang-mem-ren (leader) of Tai Ji Men said that, “Heaven judges good and evil impartially. People distinguish right from wrong with reasoning and facts. Heaven objectively determines a living creature’s reincarnation based on the creature’s merits and demerits. The human world involves human relations, and the judicial system is established to deliver justice for all. Conscience is the ultimate judge in the universe.”
Looking back on Taiwan’s history, Hong said, 228 is a major national scar, and a reminder to those in power to remember the mirror of history and the value of protecting human rights and freedoms. However, the promotion of transitional justice should not be limited to a specific incident or period of time, but should be based on respect for human dignity, fairness and justice, and the spirit of democracy, rule of law and human rights, in order to correct all wrongdoings. Its objective is to prevent all abusive prosecutions and unjustified judgments so that judicial punishment and taxation are no longer the two major sufferings inflicted on the people by the state, and transitional justice can be in line with the principles of true social justice, added Hong.
Dr. Massimo Introvigne, founder and director of the Italian Centre for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), compared Taiwan’s and South Korea’s roads to democracy. Democracy, he said, is not a label achieved once and for all, and the Tai Ji Men case proves that it should continuously be affirmed and defended.
Former Justice and Vice-President of the Judicial Yuan, Cheng Chung-mo, said that human dignity is a concept developed after the Second World War, especially by the victorious powers against the defeated ones. This is why Article 1 of the Basic Law of the German Constitution, Article 2 of the Italian Constitution, and Article 13 of the Japanese Constitution all clearly state that human rights and dignity must be observed.
Reverend Ming Guang, Chairman of the Chinese Religious Association, reminded the audience of how Tai Ji Men contributed to the promotion of traditional Chinese culture and world peace, and summarized how it was persecuted. Reverend Ming Guang said, “I would rather move a thousand rivers than the hearts of the practitioners of a spiritual movement.” This means that it is not wise to disturb or hinder practitioners. The government, Ming said, should respect freedom of religion, revoke in accordance with the rulings of the Supreme Court and the Supreme Administrative Court the illegal auction and seizure of Dr. Hong’s properties intended to be the building site for a place where Tai Ji Men could practice self-cultivation, and stop human rights violations.
Professor Chen Tze-lung, President of the Taiwan Association for Financial Criminal Law Study, said that the public authorities had created fake legal cases for the purpose of political persecution. The Tai Ji Men case, which has dragged on for 25 years, is an example of such a fake case, and should be corrected judicially and politically.
Former Tainan County Mayor, Su Huan-chih, said that after 25 years of the Tai Ji Men case, two major incidents happened last year (2020), one was the confiscation of Dr. Hong’s property intended for a self-cultivation center for Tai Ji Men by the Administrative Enforcement Agency, and the other, police brutality against one of the volunteers of the Legal and Tax Reform League, Ms. Huang, in Zhubei. But the good news is that in December last year, the Legislative Yuan passed the third reading of Article 128 of the Administrative Procedure Act, which as an amendment shall apply to the remedies to be used in the Tai Ji Men tax case.
Hwang Giin-Tarng, former member of the Examination Yuan and President of the Chinese Society of Government and Public Affairs, said that the Tai Ji Men case “will be won sooner or later, because we are on the same side as justice and righteousness.” He said that by applying Article 128 of the Administrative Procedure Act, the case should be reopened and solved, and quoted principles of international law originally derived from German procedure that may also allow for an extra-judicial solution through a settlement.
Participants also called for sanctions against the bureaucrats who clearly breached the law during their unfair and illegal prosecution of Tai Ji Men. So far, they have not been sanctioned.