2021 IRF Focus The Tai Ji Men Case Draws International Attention


Ambassador Sam Brownback, Co-Chair of the 2021 IRF Summit, visited the seminar on "A Question of Justice: The Tai Ji Men Case" to express his concern about the case.

“Religious adherents are persecuted individually and collectively every day,” said Sam Brownback, the Co-Chair of the International Religious Summit 2021 expressed, nearly 80 percent of the world's population lives in countries where they are routinely persecuted for their faith. The 2021 International Religious Freedom Summit (IRF) was held in Washington D.C. Hearing sessions were conducted to review the status of religious freedom around the world. The summit’s partner, Action Alliance to Redress 1219, organized a seminar on “A Question of Justice: The Tai Ji Mne Case,” which surprised people from all over the world. Regarded as the beacon of democracy in Asia, Taiwan was part of a human rights persecution for 25 years in the Tai Ji Men case. They have called to the Taiwan government to correct historical mistakes and respect the people's freedom of religion and belief.

Massimo Introvigne, the founder of CESNUR, and Marco Respinti, editor-in-chief of Bitter Winter, virtually participated in the seminar and took photos with the guests to support the Tai Ji Men case and call for love and conscience to make the world better.

For love, they stand
The issue of freedom of religious belief in Taiwan has surfaced? The Tai Ji Men case, which has been persecuted by a small number of Taiwanese bureaucrats for 25 years, has ignited a lot of international discussions and support from experts and organizations on human rights and freedom of religious belief. On July 13th, Tai Ji Men was found innocent and not guilty of tax evasion on the third criminal trial. This 14th anniversary day, it participated in the world’s largest and most important religious freedom event this year: the International Religious Freedom Summit (IRF), which received high attention. The summit’s partner, Action Alliance to Redress 1219, organized two seminars on "A Question of Justice: The Tai Ji Men Case". Many advocates of freedom of belief and human rights from various countries visited the scene. The event has been shared by the Associated Press and nearly 60 international media and Taiwan news in countries including Spain, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Finland, Thailand, South Korea, Singapore, and Malaysia. The reports of the persecution are spread all over the world!

The 2021 IRF was held in Washington, DC from July 13th to 15th. More than 1,000 important representatives from government agencies and non-governmental organizations from various countries participated in person. The event was also broadcasted to the world through online conferences. The Co-Chairs of the summit is Sam Brownback, the U.S. Ambassador to Freedom of International Religious Belief (2018-2021), and Katrina Lantos Swett, Chairman of the Lantos Human Rights Foundation. Senators Chris Coons and James Lankford, and Representatives Henry Cuellar and Chris Smith serve as honorary chairpersons.

Many Tai Ji Men dizi representatives participated in the summit. Two English editions of the new books "Who Stole Their Youth" and "The Tai Ji Men Case in Taiwan: A Bitter Winter Anthology" were shared with the public. The persecution suffered by Tai Ji Men awakens the world's attention, seeking international support and hoping that the tragedy will not be left to the next generation.

Tai Ji Men dizis sang "Love", and the warm voices became the focus of the conference. We hope that people will respect each other, and no one will be persecuted in the world!

The respect for the constitution of law demonstrates how much the Taiwanese people love their country. Conniving rogue bureaucrats is a shame.

The seminar "A Question of Justice: The Tai Ji Men case" took place on the first day of the summit, July 13th. The film “A Question of Justice: The Tai Ji Men Tax Case in Taiwan,” directed by the former OSCE representative and Italian religious sociologist and the New Religious Research Center CESNUR Professor Massimo Introvigne, was screened. It deeply explores the Tai Ji Men dizis who have long been committed to advocating for love and peace in various countries around the world, but they have been persecuted by a small number of officials in Taiwan for 25 years. Looking at the Tai Ji Men case from a historical perspective, although Taiwan is hailed as a beacon of democracy in Asia, because of its history, it was not entirely a democratic country. Religious or spiritual groups were still suppressed during the period of the lifting of martial law. Tai Ji Men has never been involved in politics, but it was affected in 1996. Experts at the conference appealed to the Taiwan government to vindicate the Tai Ji Men case, and that it is never too late to do the right thing!

Professor Kenneth Jacobsen calls on the Taiwanese government to redress the mistakes of the past. The Tai Ji Men case should be over already.

Kenneth Jacobsen, professor of law at Temple University in Philadelphia and former adviser to President Clinton, has studied the Tai Ji Men case for many years. Professor Jacobsen pointed out, "There is no and was no application of the rule of law in the Tai Ji Men Tax Case. Taiwan is an island of democracy, a beacon of democracy in an area that has absolute turmoil, political turmoil, as well as oppression in that region. That beacon faded with the Tai Ji Men Tax Case. I love Taiwan. I love the country of Taiwan. I love the people of Taiwan. But what has happened here, has emerged from the conduct of some rogue bureaucrats and government officials, that is now been tolerated by the government itself. And that is shameful.”

Professor Jacobsen thinks that Taiwan has a good system of separation of powers, such as the Control Yuan. Regrettably, the Control Yuan found that what was done by the prosecutor was inappropriate, and yet nothing happened. The Control Yuan is charged with the responsibility for investigating rogue government officials. It did, it found violations, and nothing happened. I call upon the president of Taiwan.

“I call upon the leaders of Taiwan to fix the mistakes of the past, as I have said before, to allow errors to continue, to perpetuate mistakes that were made in the past is as bad if not worse, than committing those mistakes in the first place. This is a travesty. It is a tragedy too. It is unjust.” As someone who respects the rule of law, Professor Jacobsen considers this case very offensive. He said “it should end and it should end now!”

Beyond the beautiful image of Taiwan
The Tai Ji Men Case shocked the world
Representatives of the Action Alliance to Redress 1219 presented two new books, "Who Stole Their Youth?" and "The Tai Ji Men Case in Taiwan: A Bitter Winter Anthology", which study the Tai Ji Men case, to the Chairmen of the IRF Summit, Sam Brownback and Katrina Lantos Swett, and more than 200 people who attended the important event.

In the second seminar "A Question of Justice: The Tai Ji Men case" on July 15th, Sam Brownback, Chairman of the IRF Summit, attended in person and mentioned “I appreciate the group, Bitter Winter, being a co-sponsor of this summit and the author, Professor Massimo that wrote about what you have experienced, taking place in Taiwan.” “we have the dignity of a person, to be able to choose whatever that future looks like for ourselves, and not have it be forced or coerced by anybody else, or by a government.” and also pointed out “we pick on the issue of governments because we believe government's role is to protect that innate right of a person to select their own course or future for their soul.” “what the government should do is to protect that right to peacefully practice your faith.”

Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett (middle), Chairman of the Lantos Foundation of Human Rights and co-chair of the 2021 IRF Summit, said that more and more people who understand the Tai Ji Men case agree that this is an unjust case.

Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, Chairman of Lantos Foundation of Human Rights and co-chair of the 2021 IRF Summit represented for the Tai Ji Men case in an interview with the Associated Press, “There’s growing concern among a range of legal experts and people and people who really understand the rule of law, that this is a situation where an injustice has occurred that needs to be rectified and acknowledged. “It’s a case I’m still in the process of educating myself about. But I understand a growing consensus among people who have looked at it that an injustice has occurred. And we need to look at it and we need to address it.”

Sam Brownback once came to Taiwan to participate in the 2019 Regional Religious Freedom Forum and highly praised Taiwan’s religious freedom. He pointed out that freedom of religious belief is a basic human right, without which humanity cannot prosper. He also emphasized that everyone's freedom of religious belief should be guaranteed anywhere and at any time.

Tai Ji Men uphold Justice
A model for defending freedom of belief
Professor Massimo Introvigne, founder of CESNUR wrote a white paper on the case of the Tai Ji Men and participated in the seminar through the online video.

Dr. Massimo Introvigne said, I would have very much liked to participate in person in the International Religious Freedom summit for different reasons. The first reason is that it continues the extraordinary work done by Ambassador Brownback for several years on behalf of religious liberty. The second reason is, this side event is about Taiwan, a country whose culture very much I admire and love. And the third is the side event is about Tai Ji Men and its quest for justice. Taiwan shares with Italy the problem of transitional justice. It is now a living democracy, but it was not always so. It went through the period of martial law when human rights and religious liberty were not guaranteed. But even after the period of martial law ended, there were still residual features of the non-democratic Taiwan. And one example of this is what happened in 1996, with a politically motivated crackdown on religious movements believed to be non-supportive of the then Taiwanese president. Tai Ji Men, a spiritual school rooted in esoteric Taoism, was really not involved in politics, but became a victim of the crackdown. The grandmaster, the shifu of Tai Ji Men and his wife went through the humiliation of being arrested. They were tried and they won. They emerged victorious from the trials, and at the end of the criminal case, they were even given compensation for the unjust detention. However, something remained; the tax case where Tai Ji Men and its leader, Dr. Hong, were accused of tax evasion by the National Taxation Bureau, even if all courts in Taiwan up to the Supreme Court had stated that there was no tax evasion.

But showing as I mentioned, the problems of transitional justice and the residual of authoritarianism, this tax case went on and on until in 2020, land belonging to Dr. Hong and intended for a spiritual cultivation center of Tai Ji Men was auctioned and then seized. And that generated some of the most massive street protests for spiritual or religious reasons in Taiwan’s recent history.

Why are thousands of people in the street? Not for the money. Tai Ji Men might have settled and spent much less than the plain cost of the court cases. Not for a domestic Taiwan tax law issue. Not for a private problem of Dr. Hong. But for a question of principle and of justice, and of religious liberty. And I believe it’s for this reason that reconstructing this case, which is a tax case but it’s mostly a freedom of religion or belief case, is important within the context of this magnificent event.

Call for Taiwanese Government to rectify Tai Ji Men Case to re-establish Justice

Tai Ji Men disciple Brenda Chen talked about the pain her family suffered from persecution, his father passed away seven years ago, regret and eventually.

There were thousands of victims in the Tai Ji Men case. One of the victims, Brenda Chen, recalled the Tai Ji Men incident with tears in her eyes:
recollected the Tai Ji Men incident: “Even though no one accused my dad of any crime, he was detained and held incommunicado for four months by the prosecutor.!” “By means of hunger, fatigue and threat, the prosecutor just wanted my dad to testify against my shifu (master),” lamented Branda.

At that time, due to prosecutor Hou Kuanjen’s illegal investigation and defame of Tai Ji Men, her family was discriminated against, and her sister received threatening letters at school. Her parents were the chief financial officer of a well-known technology company and the editors of Taiwan's Ministry of Justice, and were forced to retire early. Their career and reputation were destroyed, and they suffered huge emotional and economic losses.

“Seven years ago, my dad passed away with regret, unable to see the redress of the Tai Ji Men case.”

The Italian journalist Marco Respinti, editor-in-chief of "Bitter Winter", participated in the forum via online video. He said: "Bitter Winter has been paying close attention to the Tai Ji Men case. The Tai Ji Men case is a tragedy, because the story of prosecuting innocent people lasted nearly a quarter of a century." As a manager and professional reporter of one of the high-quality human rights online magazine observant, Mr. Respinti expressed concern about cases like the Tai Ji Men case. The responsibility of facing false accusations, such as raising goblins and false indictments, belonged to the reporter. Taiwan advocates democracy, and he urged the Taiwan government to restore the innocence of the Tai Ji Men disciples and master and re-establish justice, calling on all media to report on typical cases of human rights persecution such as the Tai Ji Men case, and finally rehabilitate the case.

Protecting freedom of belief: Hope for a country with a conscience and good governance.

Pamela Chen, a Tai Ji Men dizi living in the United States, spoke on behalf of tens of thousands of dizi in Taiwan, pointing out that their religious and freedom beliefs are being persecuted. Pamela exclaimed: The NTB sent illegal tax bills without first investigating the origin of the revenues, relying solely on the indictment! This is the fact of no conscience. In 2007, TJM was found innocent of tax evasion and all other charges by the Taiwan Supreme Court. However, NTB ignored the court decisions and continued issuing illegal tax bills. This is also the fact of no conscience. Dr. Hong, Tao-Tze, Zhang-men-ren of Tai Ji Men, is not guilty of tax evasion. However, in 2020, TJM’s land to be used by its members for self-cultivation was illegally auctioned by NTB and when the auction failed, it was confiscated by the government. This is a robbery of people's property and a lack of conscience.

Pamela Chen said, "I hope that the international community will pay attention to the Tai Ji Men case and call on Taiwanese officials to stop the persecution and return the land to the Tai Ji Men.”

Stepping onto Capitol Hill in July this year, Pamela Chen was feeling very emotional. It reminded her of an event in which Tai Ji Men was invited to the same place in 2000. It was invited by Senator Hermuz, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US Congress, to perform in the Plaza of Capitol Hill. Dr. Hong, Tao-Tze, Zhang-men-ren of Tai Ji Men, made a speech there in that event as well. The Mayor of Washington, DC, Mr. Anthony A. Williams of the District of Columbia, also presented a certificate of commendation and proclaimed March 22, 2000, as the Tai Ji Men Qigong Academy Day in Washington D.C. and praised Tai Ji Men as International Ambassadors of Goodwill and Peace.

Ever since the Tai Ji Men Qigong academy was founded in 1966, the mission has always been the same- promoting Chinese culture and cultivating physical, mental, and spiritual health for all human beings. Dr. Hong and his dizi committed to spreading love and peace based on conscience, promoting world peace and harmony, and improving the well-being of all people in the world. At the same time, we also make Taiwan visible to the world and create "cultural miracles" again and again. We did all those at our own expense, never raised funds or accepted any donations from other groups or organizations. We have visited more than 100 countries and more than 300 cities around the world, participated in more than 3,000 cultural performances and cultural exchanges at home and abroad, and even promoted civil diplomacy for Taiwan, letting the world see Taiwan.

Pamela Chen said: "I hope to get justice for our case. It is not only for Tai Ji Men, but also to help President Tsai, and also to tell the government and other countries in the world that taxation cannot be abused as a tool to persecute religious and belief freedom."