It was not only about the National Tax Bureau. Other bureaucrats also violated the law, and played a key role in the persecution of the Taiwanese movement.

by Massimo Introvigne

An article already published in Bitter Winter on May 25th, 2021.

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

The Tai Ji Men case in Taiwan started in 1996 with a politically motivated crackdown on its academies and the arrest of its leader, Dr. Hong Tao-Tze, his wife, and two devotees. They were cleared of all charges by the criminal division of the Supreme Court in Taiwan, and received national compensation for their unjust detention. Although judges had clearly indicated that they did not owe any tax, the National Tax Bureau (NTB) decided to go on with illegal tax bills based on the indictment that had been thrown out by the criminal court. The Tai Ji Men Qigong Academy had been established for more than 50 years, and its nature had remained unchanged. However, it was taxed illegally for six tax years, and the NTB was unable to offer a legal and acceptable basis for such tax demands. In the end, the NTB cancelled all tax bills except the one for the year 1992, claiming that for that year a final decision had been issued (by administrative court).

However, in 2018, Taiwan’ Supreme Administrative Court again ruled against the NTB, finding that Tai Ji Men is a menpai of qigong, martial arts, and self-cultivation, and stating that the previous 1992 ruling failed to consider the decision of the criminal division of the Supreme Court and the new facts and evidence from a NTB’s public survey, as well as the NTB’s acknowledgement that Tai Ji Men is not a cram school, which was sufficient to prove that the 1992 ruling was unlawful and erroneous. The Taipei High Administrative Court requested in two letters of May 5 and July 23, 2020 that the NTB of the Central Area handle the taxes for 1992 like it did for the other years, and withdraw the enforcement. However, the NTB ignored the request and recommendation of the Taipei High Administrative Court. It looks strange that a tax bureau may ignore a court decision and the courts cannot do anything about it, but this is what happened.

Tai Ji Men had been consistently requesting, through legitimate channels, that any enforcement activity be suspended. However, on March 28, 2019, Ching-Tsung Lin, the director-general of the Administrative Enforcement Agency, had issued a letter to the Hsinchu Branch of the Agency, requesting it to proactively auction land belonging to Dr. Hong (whose value, by the way, exceeded the tax amount allegedly due). The Agency even asked its Shilin and Kaohsiung branches to seal other properties (Swiss Mountain Villa and Tai Ji Men Kaohsiung academy) of Dr. Hong.

In May 2019, the Hsinchu Branch asked Director-General Lin whether, given the situation, it would not be more appropriate to apply to the Administrative Court for a stay of execution; unexpectedly, Director-General Lin answered that the enforcement process should continue.

Request by the Hsinchu Branch to the Shilin Branch, to split the performance credits. March 2, 2020. The document was stamped with the seal of Chief Administrative Enforcement Officer Li Kui-Fen and Administrative Enforcement Officer Chen on March 5, 2020.
Request by the Hsinchu Branch to the Shilin Branch, to split the performance credits. March 2, 2020. The document was stamped with the seal of Chief Administrative Enforcement Officer Li Kui-Fen and Administrative Enforcement Officer Chen on March 5, 2020.

On March 2, 2020, the Hsinchu Branch asked in writing the Shilin Branch to split the corresponding performance credits. This is an interesting document, which confirms how pocketing the bonus (job performance credits) was always a major motivation in ignoring the indications of courts of law. The Administrative Enforcement Agency also illegally leaked to the media the personal information and enforcement details of the parties concerned, further damaging their reputation. Because of such media manipulation, the public was misled into believing that the Enforcement Agency was performing its duties in accordance with the law, while in fact the Agency was breaking the law and violating the victims’ human rights.

Based on the spirit of Articles 77 and 77-1 of Taiwan’s Compulsory Enforcement Act, if a land survey is to be carried out, the Administrative Enforcement Agency should notify the parties concerned, and they have a right to be present. However, in the Tai Ji Men case, the parties concerned did not know about the survey until they read the survey record made by the Hsinchu Branch. On April 12, 2019 at 10:00 a.m. and June 18, 2020 at 10:20 a.m., executive officers of the Hsinchu Branch and their team entered the private land of Dr. Hong located at Tongluo Township, Miaoli County to conduct a land survey, without informing Dr. Hong or Tai Ji Men dizi. This was an obvious violation of the law.

On July 31, 2020, the Hsinchu Branch illegally carried out the auction of 52 pieces of land, intended for building a Tai Ji Men self-cultivation center, without completing all the surveys. The exact locations of these lots were not specified before the auction, which also misled the bidders. While the original auction announcement did not limit the number of people that could enter the auction site, the announcement was changed at the last minute to restrict admission to three persons only. Bidders were refused to enter the venue to monitor the auction process or submit additional necessary documents before the auction started.

The unlawful tax bill, on which the auction was based, had no legal basis, and should not even have existed; however, the case had continued for over 20 years, with no redress for the victims whose land was illegally auctioned.

Another image of the Tai Ji Men protests in Taipei.
Another image of the Tai Ji Men protests in Taipei.

Not surprisingly, the first auction failed but, despite objections by Dr. Hong and Tai Ji Men dizi, the Hsinchu Branch of the Agency announced that the second auction would be held on August 21 (only 21 days from the first auction on July 31). That auction failed as well.

52 pieces of Tai Ji Men’s land had been auctioned during the first auction, and 50 pieces among them were selected to be auctioned for the second time by the Hsinchu Branch without notifying the parties concerned. After that auction failed, the land was illegally appropriated by the NTB of Taipei and the NTB of the Central Area.

This story confirms that rogue bureaucrats of the Administrative Enforcement Agency, up to its highest levels, were not less responsible than those of the NTB for illegally depriving Dr. Hong and Tai Ji Men of land intended for building a self-cultivation center. And that the system of the bonuses and performance evaluations powerfully encourages greedy bureaucrats to violate the law.

It seems that government officials are not subject to any supervision or punishment for illegally seizing citizens’ property. This clearly reveals another significant issue: the long-standing corruption of some bureaucrats, who misuse their power as a weapon against civilians, and deceive the public by claiming that they “administers their duties according to the law.” In a democratic country, such issues should be timely addressed, to avoid public resentment and protect national stability.