In the International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief, more scholars and witnesses reflected on the case.
by Daniela Bovolenta
An article already published in Bitter Winter on September 2nd, 2021.
Dizi Jenny Hsiung introduced the third webinar, which included a presentation from Andy Swarna, founder of Great Truth. He hailed freedom of religion or belief as an inalienable and indeed a main part of universal human rights, noting it was clearly violated in the Tai Ji Men case. A video presented comments from Joy Devo, from the African Center for Law and Justice based in Nairobi, Kenya, who said that the saddest part of the Tai Ji Men case is that the tax system was used against the citizens, while its function should be to promote their well-being. In another video, social entrepreneur Damian Williamson stated that what happened is a dire consequence of “worshiping government over God,” while bureaucrats should respect the principle that conscience and morality should come first, before any governmental or personal interest.
Professor Lin Jun-Lin, chairman of the Chinese Orthodox Alliance, noted that never before qigong or martial arts masters were taxed for receiving gifts from their disciples, so in the Tai Ji Men case there should be ulterior motives explaining the actions of rogue bureaucrats. He believes the main motivation is pocketing bonuses, within a system based on the dangerous idea that bureaucrats should be motivated to act effectively through rewards rather than by educating their sense of duty.
Several Tai Ji Men dizi (disciples)shared their experiences. Pamela Chen, a customer service manager in a U.S. company, remembered how as a young woman in Taiwan she was under watch just for being a Tai Ji Men dizi, and even kept in her car different sets of clothes and sometimes had to change into them to elude surveillance. Finally, she emigrated to the United States, with the feeling that her youth was ruined because of imaginary wrongdoings both she and Tai Ji Men had never been guilty of.
Jeff Kuo, a business development manager for another U.S. company, compared Taiwan’s National Taxation Bureau to the Hydra of Lerna in Greek mythology, a monster that cannot be tamed nor killed. He noted that Taiwan’s legal system has won general praise as a democratic one, but what happened to Tai Ji Men proved that changing the laws is not enough if the bureaucrats’ habits and mentality do not change.
Ann Chen, who is an attorney in both California and Taiwan, discussed how the argument that the 1992 tax bill cannot be revoked because a final decision has been rendered is faulty. She mentioned the cases of Ling Hsiao-Hsiao, a woman whose employment contract was wrongfully terminated by the City of Taipei, and of Su Yong-Chen, a soldier who died while serving in the military and whose family was denied compensation, to show that under Taiwanese law wrong decisions involving violations of human rights can always be revised, even after they technically had become final.
Iris Chen, sales representative of a Taiwanese company, and a dizi since her childhood, compared the story of Tai Ji Men protests to another episode of Greek mythology, featuring Sisyphus, who was compelled to roll a giant boulder up to a steep hill only to see it rolling down to the bottom before he could reach the top, so that he had to start over the exercise again and again. Similarly, Tai Ji Men dizi believed several times that, once the courts had concluded they were innocent of all charges, their problems had ended, only to discover that bureaucrats would ignore the courts and move again against them.
Chang Yin-Fen, a math teacher in the United States and a dizi, recalled how their family’s trip back to Taiwan, which had already been postponed in 2020 because of the pandemic, was cancelled again in 2021 as her daughter decided to participate instead in the International Religious Freedom Summit in Washington D.C. and testify about the Tai Ji Men case. She did not regret this, Chang said, as the Summit was a moving and important experience and will hopefully generate more international support for Tai Ji Men.
Mariam Ibraheem, a Sudanese woman who was persecuted for her conversion to Christianity, expressed her solidarity to Tai Ji Men as a fellow victim of religion- or belief-motivated violence and persecution. She also expressed hope that a global alliance of victims may improve the condition of the persecuted.
Dizi Chris Tsai introduced the fourth webinar, which featured an important section of videos about the Tai Ji Men case, as well as additional dizi witnesses. Jessica Kuo, a counselor supporting the mental health and wellness education of immigrants in Canada, reported that tax issues are far away from her professional experience, yet she was compelled to study them because of the Tai Ji Men case. She realized that tax fairness is a necessary part of justice and human rights. As a Taiwanese living abroad, she is pleased to hear Taiwan praised for its democratic achievements, but at the same time she acknowledges that the democratic transition will not be completed until the tax system will be fair as well, and dishonest tax bureaucrats will finally be kept in check.
Lorraine Huang, a student at Taiwan’s National Taipei University of Business, reported how she never tolerated bullying in school, and stood up for her classmates who were bullied. She believed this was a problem in schools only, but when she attended with other dizi the World Taxpayers Association conference in Australia she realized that adults are also bullied by tax bureaucrats and governments (Prosecutor Hou, she said, also operated as a typical bully), and something should be urgently done about it.
Jeff Chen, a software engineer in the U.S., stated that both he and his family are victims of the Tai Ji Men case, as after 1996 they were bullied and discriminated by former friends who believed Prosecutor Hou’s black propaganda. However, they never considered leaving Tai Ji Men or Dr. Hong. Alan Hung, a college student in the U.S., presented three principles that should have governed the behavior of government officers in the Tai Ji Men case, but didn’t. First, bureaucracy should not be weaponized and used against minorities the government does not like. Second, prosecutors should be impartial. Third, everybody makes mistakes, including government officers, but what matters is whether they are able to acknowledge and correct their mistakes.
Another college student in the U.S., Andrea Chang, a senior at the University of Washington, said she was born and raised in America, and learned from the history of the Civil Rights Movement that only by protesting peacefully for several years are citizens able to be finally heard by their governments. She compared the Civil Rights Movement to the Tai Ji Men protests in Taiwan, noting however the difference that so far dizi’s claims do not seem to be listened to by the authorities. But Dr. Hong, she said, taught her never to lose hope.
Eric Shen, an IT manager working in the U.S., recalled how while studying history he was inspired by his readings of Lao Tzu to join Tai Ji Men. Later, he was also surprised to see how the societal problems denounced by Lao Tzu some 2,500 years ago, including the greediness and lack of morals of some public officials, are still not solved today, as evidenced by the Tai Ji Men case. Coco Yeh, a software engineer from California, returned on the issue of how lack of integrity by some bureaucrats, besides causing great suffering to the dizi and spoiling their joyful experience of the movement, damaged the image of Taiwan abroad.
Lilian Lin, a student at Shih Chien University of Industrial Design in Taiwan, returned to what she called the “great catastrophe” and sleepless nights of August 2020, when Tai Ji Men sacred land was auctioned and then appropriated by the government. She remembered the protests under heat and rain, when she learned the hard way that the route to human rights has no end, and victims of persecution can only hope that others will join their campaign for justice.
Brian Kung, a laboratory assistant at San Antonio Regional Hospital in Texas, recalled his hospital experience during the worst days of COVID-19, and how the practice of qigong learned in Tai Ji Men helped him in that tragic time. He still cannot understand how a movement that helped so many human beings can be persecuted in Taiwan, and the government there is unable to solve the case.
A video on the International Day of Conscience concluded the webinar, with the host reminding the audience that conscience is also about holding accountable corrupt government officials and those responsible for acts of violence based on religion or belief.