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TAIWAN: Action Alliance to Redress 1219 hosts press conference on Tai Ji Men Case in Washington, D.C.

Action Alliance to Redress 1219 hosts International Press Conference on Tai Ji Men Case in Washington, D.C.

On the eve of the Summit for Democracy, international scholars and experts call on the Taiwanese government to resolve the Tai Ji Men case as soon as possible, implement transitional justice, and protect freedom of religion or belief

Action Alliance to Redress 1219 (08.12.2021) – President Joe Biden is expected to convene the Summit for Democracy on Dec. 9, and the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) reported in November that by participating in the Summit, Taiwan, as a leading democracy, could make meaningful contributions to the fight against corruption, authoritarian regimes, and the promotion of human rights at home and abroad, according to World Journal.

 

However, Taiwan has not always been a democracy. The 25-year Tai Ji Men case is a landmark case of government corruption, perpetuation of the authoritarian legacy, and human rights violations in Taiwan! On December 7, 2021, the Action Alliance to Redress 1219 hosted an international press conference in Washington, D.C. to reveal the truth about the Tai Ji Men case, where injustice was committed by the government of Taiwan against the Tai Ji Men Qigong Academy and its founder, Dr. Hong, and to seek the assistance of the United States and all nations committed to freedom of expression and human rights in righting this wrong.

 

Prof. Massimo Introvigne, founder and managing director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), made a special trip from Italy to Washington, D.C. to attend the meeting, despite the threat of the COVID-19 virus. “We love Taiwan! We appreciate the democratic role of Taiwan,” stated Prof. Introvigne, explaining that because of their love for the country, the Tai Ji Men dizi (disciples) hope that Taiwan will shake off the ghosts of its authoritarian past and restore its international image as a truly democratic country that respects human rights.

Tai Ji Men dizi Gill Wang introduced the Tai Ji Men case, which began in 1996 in Taiwan when a prosecutor named Hou Kuan-jen used fabricated evidence and fake witnesses to accuse Tai Ji Men of fraud, tax evasion, and raising goblins. In 2007, Taiwan’s Supreme Court found Tai Ji Men not guilty of tax evasion or any other charges. In a democracy adhering to the rule of law, the case should have ended there; instead, Taiwan’s National Taxation Bureau disregarded the Supreme Court’s decision and continued to impose unjustified taxes on Tai Ji Men. In August 2020, Tai Ji Men’s sacred land, intended for a self-cultivation center for Tai Ji Men members, was illegally auctioned and forcibly confiscated.

Willy Fautré, director of Human Rights Without Frontiers, reminded the audience, the Tai Ji Men case was listed by Taiwan’s Control Yuan in 2005 as one of the major human rights protection cases in the “General Report and the Work of Human Rights Protection of the Control Yuan (1999-2005).” He pointed out the problem of Taiwan’s bonus system: “The case of Tai Ji Men shows that the system of tax bonuses granted to public servants can lead to undue fiscal and judicial harassment for years and decades.” “It also proves that this system is a form of organized corruption inside the state and an abuse of power of their leaders and their staff for personal financial benefit,” he added.

 

Through a video, many victims in the Tai Ji Men case shared their painful experiences as they had been intimidated and coerced by the prosecutor, and the trauma is still unhealed. The Tai Ji Men case is the one with the most victims and has lasted the longest in Taiwan’s history after martial law was lifted. Brenda Chen attended the event in person to speak about her family’s trauma. “On Christmas Eve in 1996, there was no peace in my family. Even though no one accused my dad of any crime, he was detained and held incommunicado for four months by the prosecutor. Our house was searched. We were scared and didn’t know when my dad could come home.” Prosecutor Hou Kuan-jen utilized starvation, exhaustion, threats, and intimidation, attempting to extract false testimony that the prosecutor wanted. Her mother was compelled to retire early owing to the smear campaign against Tai Ji Men, and her sister received a threatening note at school. In order to escape the nightmare of 1996, she and her sister immigrated to the United States and France respectively. Although her father received state compensation for wrongful imprisonment in 2008, he lamented not seeing the redress of the case before he passed away seven years ago.

To highlight the importance of the pursuit of truth, the event organizer conducted a lighting ceremony of a sign with the word “TRUTH.” Prof. Introvigne concluded the event by emphasizing the need of dispelling the misconception that the Tai Ji Men case is a solely local Taiwan tax dispute best left to Taiwanese lawyers to resolve.

In fact, the Tai Ji Men case involves international human rights and religious freedom issues. The case remains unsolved precisely because it is misinterpreted as a simple local administrative matter.

Jeff Chen, on behalf of worldwide Tai Ji Men members, read a statement summarizing the main events of the Tai Ji Men case, and denouncing the illegal actions by Prosecutor Hou Kuan-jen and the National Taxation Bureau: “For more than a quarter-century, the Tai Ji Men culture, the human rights of Tai Ji Men’s leader and members, and their freedom of thought and belief have been severely harmed, and over ten thousand families have been severely persecuted, which is a history of blood and tears. It is one of the longest-running cases in Taiwan’s history, involving the largest number of victims and seriously infringing on the freedom of religion or belief of worldwide Tai Ji Men members.” Jeff stressed, “With one voice, we hereby denounce the perpetrators. Those who enforce public authority should not be allowed to violate the law of evidence and due process. They should not disregard integrity for personal gain, commit human rights violations, or infringe on people’s religious freedom. We demand that the Taiwanese government implement transitional justice and return Tai Ji Men’s sacred land immediately. We shall not give up until justice and righteousness are restored, so that Taiwan can become a beacon of true democracy, freedom, and human rights.”

SEE VIDEOS FROM WASHINGTON

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rjxZUYEn4c (Press conference, 7 December)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srCdG51XcS8 (Webinar 6 December)

About Action Alliance to Redress 1219: Action Alliance to Redress 1219 is a group of international and Taiwanese legal, religious, and human rights specialists working to restore the truth about the ongoing persecution of Tai Ji Men in Taiwan by a small group of bureaucrats that has lasted for 25 years, as well as their misuse of authority and violations of the law. In addition to rectifying the Tai Ji Men case and revealing the truth, it is also committed to defending religious freedom, speaking out for related injustices in Taiwan. The Alliance calls on those in power not to ignore people’s fundamental human rights and demands that perpetrators be held accountable to protect democracy, the rule of law, and justice.

Photo title: A Lighting Ceremony of TRUTH

Caption: To emphasize the importance of the pursuit of truth, the event organizer conducted a lighting ceremony of a sign with the word “TRUTH,” symbolizing revealing the truth and lighting up hope.

Media Contact: Lily Chen

Representative admin@act1219.org

626-202-5268

https://act1219.org/eng/

Further reading about FORB in Taiwan on HRWF website





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NORTH KOREA: Watch our debate on human rights in North Korea on YouTube

Watch the debate on human rights in North Korea on YouTube

HRWF (08.06.2021) – On 3 June, People in Need and Human Rights Without Frontiers organized a debate about human rights in North Korea. Here are the questions that were addressed to the panelists:

 

Question to Mads Brügger, director of the film The Mole

 

Through the experience of Ulrich Larsen, the Mole who infiltrated the Korean Friendship Association, your investigation movie highlights and documents state crimes perpetrated by Kim Jong-un. Was it a discovery for you when you started to work with Ulrich Larsen and how did you feel at that time? What was your motivation and your objective by making your film.

 

How has your film been perceived by the media, politicians and civil society in European countries?

 

Has your film had any impact on the relations of some countries with North Korea?

 

Questions (Dr Rajiv Narayan)

 

When you were a researcher at the Asia Pacific Program of Amnesty International in London covering North Korea, what were your major findings about human rights violations in NK, what were your sources of information and how did you document your accusations?

 

Do you think the human rights situation has worsened in North Korea in these times of the pandemic?

 

How is the accountability issue raised by the international community?

 

 

Questions  (Dr Aaron Rhodes)

 

For decades, until the collapse of the Soviet Union, the populations of Central and Eastern Europe were ruled by Communist totalitarian states and deprived of their basic political and civil rights until they stood up against their dictators. Do you think that one day the North Koreans could topple their leaders?

 

How do human rights NGOs in South Korea try to exert some influence on human rights in the North?

 

What is the objective of Kim Jong-un to create Friendship Associations with North Korea? What is the profile of those joining such associations? Is their motivation political?

 

The panelists were

 

Mads Brügger is a Danish journalist, TV host, author, and filmmaker. He has written several books, worked for magazines and newspapers, produced award-winning radio programmes and hosted critically acclaimed late-night TV shows.

 

He is renowned for his distinctive methods of “performative journalism” as he infiltrates various milieus when he covers an issue. He realized many investigation movies the list of which would be too long to expose.

 

The last one in October 2020 featured a Danish chef on the dole going undercover in the Korean Friendship Association over the course of 10 years while trying to uncover the illicit arms and narcotics dealings of North Korea.

 

Aaron Rhodes is a human rights advocate and author.  He was Executive Director of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights for 14 years, and subsequently he was a co-founder of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran and the Freedom Rights Project.  Since 2014 he has been president of the Forum for Religious Freedom-Europe (FOREF).  He is the author of The Debasement of Human Rights (Encounter Books, 2018) and numerous op eds in the American press.

 

Rajiv Narayan was East Asia Researcher at the Asia Pacific Program of Amnesty International in London (Oct 1999-Jan 2014) covering North Korea. He has written on the Political Prison Camps in North Korea, linked human rights violations with the Food Crisis and the resultant Health Crisis.

He was a consultant Senior Adviser for Rafto Foundation on North Korea for three years. In 2018, he led the publication of and wrote the introductory chapter for a book of writings by North Korean writers based in South Korea titled Writing Wrongs: 14 Voices from North Korea.

Willy Fautré (HRWF): Moderator

 

Photo credits: Wikipedia.org





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TAIWAN: U.N. World Day For Cultural Diversity, for Dialogue and Development

Presentation at the 24 May webinar co-organized by CESNUR and HRWF. It was part of the events organized by NGOs for the 2021 United Nations World Day, which was commemorated on May 21.

 

By Willy Fautré, director of Human Rights Without Frontiers

 

HRWF (31.05.2021) – In 2001, UNESCO adopted the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity.  In December 2002, the UN General Assembly, in its resolution 57/249, declared 21 May to be the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.

 

In 2015, the Second Committee of the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted the resolution on Culture and Sustainable Development A/C.2/70/L.59, affirming culture’s contribution to the three dimensions of sustainable development, acknowledging further the natural and cultural diversity of the world, and recognizing that cultures and civilizations can contribute to, and are crucial enablers of, sustainable development.

 

This day that we are commemorating provides us with an opportunity to deepen our understanding of the values of cultural diversity, to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms.

 

The case of Tai Ji Men which is part of the cultural diversity in Taiwan is emblematic in this regard.  Tai Ji Men has never evaded taxes, a fact that has been confirmed by the Taiwan Supreme Court, and the defendants who were detained have received national compensation for their unlawful imprisonment. However, for a quarter of a century, this minority movement has been heavily persecuted by the National Taxation Bureau. Tai Ji Men has always refused to pay undue taxes or to accept a so-called friendly settlement, which would have been an admission of guilt and more importantly a treason of its moral principles and against its conscience.

 

Tai Ji Men: From the status of victim to the status of defender of victims

 

Taxation of the income of individuals, associations and companies is a mechanism that is necessary in a democratic society to guarantee the common good, to finance public and social services, to support investments and innovation. However, taxation must be fair and transparent if the government wants the citizens to abide by its rules.

 

When confidence in the taxation system is lost because of corruption, cheating or abuse, the rule of law and democracy are in danger and society must react.

 

This is the situation that Tai Ji Men has painfully experienced and against which it has decided to react. Even though the amount of time, effort, and money they have put into this worthy cause far exceeds the amount of illegal taxes levied against them, they still have the courage to fight for justice and righteousness, not only for themselves, but also for the sake of the country’s justice and people’s happiness.

 

The Tai Ji Men case has drawn the attention of a number of well-known experts and scholars, who established the Tax and Legal Reform League in 2016 with the following objectives to safeguard the well-being of the Taiwanese society:

 

  • to help victims of the National Taxation Bureau
  • to inform Taiwanese taxpayers about their legitimate rights
  • to invite scholars and experts in different fields to propose reforms
  • to check the work of public servants, identify and sanction those who have abused their power in total impunity.
  • Awakening people’s awareness of their rights as taxpayers.

 

Some initiators of the Tax and Legal Reform League are worth mentioning:

 

Prof. Huang, Chun-Chieh

Distinguished Professor, Department of Financial and Economic Law of National Chung Cheng University, Taiwan and Former Member of the Presidential Office Human Rights Consultative Committee, Taiwan

 

Dr. Chen, Tze-lung, Chairman of the Taiwan Association for Financial Criminal Law Study, and Former Professor of Law at National Taiwan University

 

Prof. Wu, Ching-Chin, Associate Professor of Law at Aletheia University and Executive Board Member of Taiwan Forever Association

 

Mr. Chen, Yi-nan, Director of Taiwan Society North

 

Prof. Lien, Fu-Long (Prof. Lukas Lien), Contact Professor in Taiwan, Osnabrück University, Germany

 

The Tax and Legal Reform League does not only correct the mismanagement of tax collection by the National Taxation Bureau (NTB) and the abuse of its disproportionate power but it also makes constructive proposals to remedy it. Here are the main points of its roadmap which includes the compliance with the existing fiscal rules considered to be fair and the regulations that need to be reformed, completed or abolished.

 

The roadmap of the Tax and Legal Reform League

 

The taxation should have a clear legal basis and strictly comply with legal implementation procedures and the Constitution.

 

The taxpayers should first receive a taxation proposal that they can contest with arguments before it is officially issued.

 

In case of disagreement, the burden of proof should be shifted from the taxpayers to the tax authorities.

 

If the tax authorities cannot prove that a taxpayer has intentionally evaded taxes, they should not impose a penalty.

 

The Petitions and Appeals Committee of the Ministry of Finance, which deals with complaints of taxpayers, should be composed of independent experts and scholars in order to be fair and impartial.

 

To protect the people’s right to appeal a decision, the rule that “half of the tax must be paid or guaranteed before filing an appeal, otherwise the appeal will be referred to the enforcement agency” and “restricting people from leaving the country, detaining them, and taking them into custody without a court decision” should all be abolished.

 

If the tax amount cannot be determined within five years from the issuance of the original tax bill, it should not be allowed to be reassessed.

 

The Taxpayer Rights Protection Act should be reviewed and amended by experts and scholars. The reason is that it might seem to protect taxpayers’ rights, but in fact it is full of loopholes. One of them is the lack of independence and impartiality in the selection of the taxpayer’s Ombudsman and tax judges in addition to unreasonable tax deadlines.

 

Last but not least, the system of tax bonuses granted to officers of the National Taxation Bureau and the Enforcement Agency, which are proportional to amounts collected through taxes and auctions, can lead to undue fiscal and judicial harassment by the tax collection officers and should be repealed. Besides, the bonus system has no legal basis.

 

Through their quest for justice for victims of the National Taxation Bureau, the Tax and Legal Reform League and Tai Ji Men contribute to the protection of cultural diversity and moral development of society in Taiwan. We should all learn from Tai Ji Men and the Tax and Legal Reform League and work together with conscience to preserve the world’s cultural diversity, so that the world will become a better place to live and everyone will enjoy happiness and prosperity.

 


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