The harassment of a peaceful and benevolent group by Taiwanese authorities proves that human rights problems also exist in countries reputed for their democratic development.

by Liu Yin-Chun*

*A paper presented at the 4th international ISFORB (Institute for the Study of Freedom of Religion and Belief) conference, Evangelical Theological Faculty, Leuven, Belgium. May 3, 2024.

An article already published in Bitter Winter on May 6th, 2024.

Liu Yin-Chun presents her paper at the 4th international ISFORB conference, with panel participants Arthur Hsieh (left) and Eric Roux (right).
Liu Yin-Chun presents her paper at the 4th international ISFORB conference, with panel participants Arthur Hsieh (left) and Eric Roux (right).

I am a Tai Ji Men dizi (disciple), a graduate of Leiden University, and currently the general manager of a biotech company.

Please allow me to briefly introduce Tai Ji Men, discuss the case, and explain why it exemplifies how a state can impede propagation of religion or belief.

Tai Ji Men is an ancient menpai (similar to a “school”) of qigong, martial arts, and self-cultivation. All disciples follow ancient rituals to become Tai Ji Men dizi, practicing martial arts and qigong to improve their physical health and mental wellbeing, while learning the life wisdom of the balance of yin and yang.

Our Shifu (Grand Master), Dr. Hong Tao-Tze, teaches us that the true essence of martial arts is to “stop conflict and promote goodness.” Over the years, we have followed Dr. Hong to more than a hundred countries, engaging in cultural exchanges and peace summits, and inviting leaders from all sectors to ring the Bell of World Peace and Love, promoting a culture of peace and benevolence. We also actively promote the introduction of new United Nations days of observance. With others, we achieved our aim for the International Day of Conscience. We are now promoting the World Day of the Power of Hope and the World Day of Prayer, hoping our world can develop sustainably guided by conscience, hope, and prayer.

Why would the Taiwanese government obstruct the development of a positive and proactive group like Tai Ji Men? It all goes back to 1996, during Taiwan’s first direct presidential election. The ruling party of the time, the Kuomintang, won those elections but after them severely suppressed several religious groups it accused of not having supported its candidate, including Tai Ji Men.

A prosecutor called Hou Kuan-Yen conducted raids and investigated Tai Ji Men. He illegally detained Dr. Hong and his wife along with two Tai Ji Men dizi. His indictment even included the absurd accusation of “raising goblins,” which was widely ridiculed in Taiwan at the time. Furthermore, Hou wrongfully labeled Tai Ji Men as a cram school. He declared that gifts given to Tai Ji Men were in fact tuition fees for the cram school, and transferred this baseless indictment to the National Taxation Bureau, which issued ill-founded tax bills.

A slide presented by Liu during her lecture.
A slide presented by Liu during her lecture.

After a decade of legal battles, Tai Ji Men was finally acquitted by the Supreme Court in 2007, which declared it was not guilty of any crime, including tax evasion, and the Shifu and dizi who had been imprisoned received state compensation for wrongful imprisonment. Despite this, the National Taxation Bureau still refused to rescind the illegal tax bills. In the end, it was compelled to reduce all the tax bills to zero, but maintained the one for the year 1992 based on a technicality. It then cooperated with Taiwan’s Administrative Enforcement Agency to enforce the 1992 tax bill. In 2020 it seized, unsuccessfully auctioned off, and confiscated land Tai Ji Men regard as sacred and intend for the construction of a self-cultivation and educational center. So far, attempts to have this land given back to Tai Ji Men have been unsuccessful.

We believe that the actions of Prosecutor Hou, the National Taxation Bureau, and the Administrative Enforcement Agency have been illegal. We also believe that corruption of bureaucrats, a systemic problem in Taiwan, played a part in the case, particularly because tax officers receive significant bonuses on the tax bills they rightly or wrongly enforce.

Tai Ji Men protests in Taiwan.
Tai Ji Men protests in Taiwan.

This is not the opinion of Tai Ji Men only. In addition to the legislative, executive, and judicial power, Taiwan has a fourth power, the Control Yuan, whose task is to control the other three. The Control Yuan ascertained several violations of law in the Tai Ji Men case and listed it as one of the most significant cases of human rights abuses in recent years. More than three hundred Taiwanese legislators have also protested the illegal features of the Tai Ji Men case and called for its solution. Numerous scholars from Taiwan, including eminent academics in the field of law and taxes, have publicly denounced the abusive nature of the Tai Ji Men case. Foreign academics have also joined them.

I would like to conclude this presentation by paying homage to the memory of the wife of our leader, Dr. Hong, Madam Yu Mei-Jung, our Shimu, who passed away three years ago. In 1996, right after undergoing surgery and after her husband had been detained, she voluntarily presented herself to explain the Tai Ji Men case but was immediately detained herself and threatened by the prosecutor while in custody. She was also restricted from leaving the country due to criminal and tax cases for a total of 782 days, and was unable to see her children overseas.

Despite this, she did not resent or blame anyone. Instead, she continued to lead dizi in spreading love and peace around the world. May her example continue to inspire us, and persuade the authorities in Taiwan to solve a case that has lasted for twenty-eight years.