A woman peacefully protesting within the framework of the Tai Ji Men tax protests was arrested and mistreated.

by Jim Chang*

*A paper presented at the webinar “Dialogue, Diversity, and Freedom: Reacting to the Tai Ji Men Case,” organized by CESNUR and Human Rights Without Frontiers on May 24, 2021.

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

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

In late August 2020, disregarding due process, Taiwan’s Administrative Enforcement Agency (under the Ministry of Justice) and National Taxation Bureau (NTB) illegally auctioned and confiscated the land intended for building a self-cultivation center for Tai Ji Men shifu (Master) and dizi (disciples).

On September 19, 2020, Ms. Huang, a volunteer for the Legal and Tax Reform League and a Tai Ji Men member, exercised her right to freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution of Taiwan to question and condemn the lucrative nature of this auction. She was questioned and even detained by the police for simply holding a sign that reads, “Chief Enforcement Officer Li Kui-fen of the Hsinchu Branch of the Administrative Enforcement Agency, how much money did you receive as a reward from handling the Tai Ji Men case? NT$100,000? NT$1 million? NT$10 million? Come on, disgorge the money!”

When she was arrested, Ms. Huang was not informed of the charges against her, and she was even transferred to the District Prosecutors Office. She was deprived of her personal freedom and interrogated for about eight hours in total.

Since Ms. Huang’s case of September 19 last year, there have been several instances of police searches and interrogations that were illegal. The law is incapable of enforcing itself. No matter how the law is written, it will not be able to fully regulate or prevent the problem of police officers abusing their authority.

We have developed a more tolerant attitude toward law enforcement authorities in recent decades, and the law as a whole tends to protect officials’ rights. However, I believe that we now need to re-examine the system in terms of human rights protection. We should repeal laws and rules that protect police, and replace them with laws and rules that safeguard people’s rights. In a democracy that maintains the rule of law and safeguards human rights, this is the course we should adopt.

Over the last 25 years, Tai Ji Men shifu and dizi have been persecuted as a result of the criminal and tax cases of injustice. Prosecutor Hou Kuan-jen is the mastermind behind it all. However, he has never been punished for his misdeeds. Initially, administrative sanctions were to be imposed, but it was argued that the statute of limitations had expired; therefore, no disciplinary action was conducted.

Young protesters demonstrating peacefully.
Young protesters demonstrating peacefully.

He was not held criminally accountable for his wrongdoings or liable for the state compensation. The defendants in the Tai Ji Men case got state compensation for their unlawful detention, which is now known as criminal compensation, but is the injustice against Tai Ji Men only limited to the unlawful detention? Other rights of Tai Ji Men shifu and dizi were also violated in this case. Prosecutor Hou Kuan-jen, for example, broke the rule that a prosecution probe should be kept private. However, he faces no repercussions for his actions. That is why I suggest that government personnel who disobey the law, abuse their power, or are negligent face unique, all-encompassing disciplinary actions. This is the 139-1 crime. After researching similar criminal charges in over ten countries, I came up with this idea.

Whether Ms. Huang was holding the poster or not, and even if she was, she did not commit any crimes. It was not a felony to hold a placard on a street corner. That was just her right to free speech. The police interrogated her, claiming that they had caught her red-handed and took her away after she had put the poster away. Li Kui-fen, they alleged, had filed a complaint against her. Then she should be able to sue Li Kui-fen for defamation. How did the system conspire to frame Ms. Huang, from Li Kui-fen, the enforcement officer, to the police and the prosecutors’ office? We expect that by filing a lawsuit against Li Kui-fen, we will be able to find out the facts.

Another image of the protests.
Another image of the protests.

We need to know why the police and the law enforcement agency are attempting to frame Ms. Huang. Now, it appears that judicial officers have banded together against those who criticize them, resulting in a clash between citizens and law enforcement agents. In fact, this is a negative social trend. Why did law enforcement set up Ms. Huang? What are the ramifications of their actions?

What should we do to ensure that similar issues do not arise in the future? Based on the case of Ms. Huang and other incidents of police power abuse, Tai Ji Men, Ms. Huang, and we lawyers need to figure out a new order, new norms, and new laws, as well as to repeal obsolete, unjust laws and regulations that violate human rights protection. We need to assist people in resolving issues with the government by amending the legislation to ensure that good people are protected and that law enforcement officers are not allowed to be illegal or irresponsible in enforcing the law.