April 5 confronts us with the tragedy of inaction on the Tai Ji Men case. Did the international community do enough?

by Stephen Enada*

*A paper presented at the webinar “A Question of Conscience: The Tai Ji Men Case,” co-organized by CESNUR and Human Rights Without Frontiers on April 5, 2022, International Day of Conscience.

An article already published in Bitter Winter on April 14th, 2022.

Tai Ji Men protests in Taipei.
Tai Ji Men protests in Taipei.

As we all know, the International Day of Conscience is a call to be conscious of the need for the creation of conditions of stability and well-being, and peaceful and friendly relationships based on the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinctions of race, sex, language or religion. This is what the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed when it declared April 5 the International Day of Conscience.

But what is conscience?

Most religions believe that the conscience is the voice of God or the transcendent. Through conscience, the Supreme Being or what the Abrahamic faith tradition refer to as “God” is speaking to individuals, guiding them to do the right thing in a given situation. Conscience can be described as a moral sense of right and wrong. A conscience must be educated, as an uneducated conscience can make wrong decisions.

Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe that the voice of God spoke to Abraham through his conscience. Engraving by Wenceslaus Hollar (1607–1667). Credits.
Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe that the voice of God spoke to Abraham through his conscience. Engraving by Wenceslaus Hollar (1607–1667). Credits.

One example of wrong decision is what I would call “the tragedy of our inaction” on the Tai Ji Men case.

The stormy year 1996 was when the fabricated Tai Ji Men case began. There has been one mistake after another committed by the Taiwanese government. There are more than hundreds of articles and dozens of books, conferences, and seminars denouncing this lawless crackdown. Yes, I give credit to lawyers and civil society organizations holding forth the light for the Tai Ji Men.

Tai Ji Men have been vindicated, but why the conscience from the United Nations and the global community is not manifesting itself to bring about adequate compensation, and terminate the wrongful tax prosecution of Tai Ji Men? The reason is—because we think justice is freely given, but it must be demanded.

Promises have been broken and there is a lack of will to act by the international community. It is very good that the General Assembly of the United Nations has proclaimed the 5th of April the International Day of Conscience. We all know how much Tai Ji Men contributed to it. Now the international community, based on the evidence that Tai Ji Men is not a cram school and gifts it receives are not taxable, should support Tai Ji Men in its conscientious struggle.

It seems to me that certain “big interests” in Taiwan do not want justice for Tai Ji Men. Therefore, we need to disrupt these “big interests.” This implies organizing our collective efforts into one voice. We must make the Tai Ji Men case much more than just an intellectual ideation and create a movement that will rally many and make our advocacy on behalf of Tai Ji Men irrepressible.

This is the right time to build strong connections and mobilize. This is the right time to call the global community to action on the Tai Ji Men case.