Dr. Hong and his dizi were attacked directly, indirectly, and by threatening their economic resources.

by Stephen Enada*

*A paper presented at the hybrid seminar “Persecuting Spiritual Masters: The Tai Ji Men Case,” co-organized by CESNUR and Human Rights Without Frontiers in Walnut, California, on October 8, 2022, after the World Teacher’s Day.

An article already published in Bitter Winter on October 22nd, 2022.

How spiritual masters operate: thousands gathered around Dr. Hong for the Global Prayers for Love and Peace on October 16.
How spiritual masters operate: thousands gathered around Dr. Hong for the Global Prayers for Love and Peace on October 16.

The popular website National Today wrote about World Teachers’ Day that, “Almost everybody has a favorite teacher, someone who went above and beyond to encourage you because they could see your potential. On October 5, take time to celebrate World Teachers’ Day—a global event launched by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1994.”

Everyone is a learner, and you don’t learn without a formal or an informal teacher. Parents are the primary teachers. Spiritual leaders become the shaper of thoughts and those who connect to a higher authority. They may exert significant influence on both parents and children.

Spiritual teachers are often persecuted but this persecution is rarely mentioned by the media. When they are not part of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), seeing cases of persecution covered by the media is even rarer. However, our solidarity with persecuted spiritual teachers should be all-encompassing.

Persecuted spiritual leaders are often slandered before (or while) they are persecuted. Marco Respinti has described the leader of Tai Ji Men as a victim of “post-truth.” The phenomenon of post-truth is “an intellectual climate where objective facts are less important than subjective beliefs, and even mere emotions.”  Respinti showed how the “post-truth” was at work to spread fake news about Tai Ji Men. He concluded that   Tai Ji Men is guilt by innocence. Cleared from all accusations, it continues to be harassed by corrupt bureaucrats who live outside of reality.” This is, of course, not a reason to be intimidated. On the contrary, we should continue our fight for truth and justice about the Tai Ji Men case.

The persecution of Tai Ji Men’s spiritual leader can be examined from three angles. First, there is a direct persecution. Dr. Hong Tao-Tze, the Shifu (Grand Master) of Tai Ji Men was persecuted under various pretexts. As in the case of other spiritual leaders, the aim was to destroy Tai Ji Men and the right of the dizi (disciples) to pursue their spiritual experience without being harassed by the government.

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

Second, the economic resources necessary for carrying out the mission of Tai Ji Men were attacked. Thus mission is spiritual, but spiritual missions need resources. Through ill-founded tax bills and seizures and confiscation of properties, government bureaucrats tried to deprive Tai Ji Men of its resources.

Third, there was indirect persecution of a spiritual leader. Since there is a deep and strict relationship between Shifu and dizi, slandering, discriminating, and persecuting dizi is also an indirect attack against their Shifu.

One would have expected action from the United Nations, notwithstanding their difficulties in dealing with Taiwan, and the U.S. institutions in charge of international human rights and freedom or religion or belief, including the U.S. Department of State, the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), and both the Congress and Senate Committees on Foreign Relation. Perhaps for political reasons, they have not so far publicly intervened in the Tai Ji Men case.

In 1963, in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote thatfreedom is never given voluntarily by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” You must demand it, for it will not be given freely. This is what confronts all of us advocating for Tai Ji Men.

Martin Luther King, Jr., speaks in Washington DC in 1963. Credits.
Martin Luther King, Jr., speaks in Washington DC in 1963. Credits.

Organizations such as Open Doors have been effective in creating “score cards” calling the attention on persecuted groups. However, Open Doors is a Christian advocacy organization. They deal (almost) exclusively with Christian groups.

I think we have to scale up our campaign and advocacy strategy, which means we need to produce a score card that will make the Tai Ji Men case a point of reference and action in the global arena. We should produce a “2022 score card” on the Tai Ji Men Case, and engage institutions and government agencies to act on it in 2023.

We must ask the US Congress to tackle the Tai Ji Men case, perhaps through an ad hoc hearing. We should ask friendly radio and TV stations to feature Tai Ji Men brothers and sisters from Taiwan living in the United States to relate the plight of the Tai Ji Men case.

I remain committed to the cause of Tai Ji Men, and will do my best to help.