The Tai Ji Men Case: A Fight for Conscience and Justice

Tai Ji Men was persecuted for political reasons and harassed with unjust tax bills for more than 25 years. It all derived from the “five poisons of human heart.”

by Liu Yin-Chun*

*A paper presented at the session “Tai Ji Men’s Journey: A Fight for Conscience and Justice” of the 2023 Parliament of the World’s Religions, Chicago, August 15, 2023.

Tai Ji Men protests in Taipei.

I come from The Netherlands, where I am the managing director of a biotechnology company. I am also a mother of two children. When I was nine years old, I became a Tai Ji Men dizi, following my Shifu, Dr. Hong Tao-Tze, to practice qigong and learn the “heart kung fu” while discovering the purpose and meaning of life.

Today is a very special day because, exactly one year ago today, my father passed away. My father was a Tai Ji Men dizi as well. Thirty years ago, after joining Tai Ji Men and learning kung fu from Dr. Hong, my father found his inner force, which calmed his mind amidst the immense life and work pressures. He also gained the confidence to tackle life’s never-ending challenges.

As a result, my father recommended our entire family to join Tai Ji Men. Our family, thus, evolved from an ordinary household constantly caught up in its own activities, into a family with common topics and shared beliefs, and one full of energy and happiness. Our collective faith lies in the philosophy of self-cultivation and altruism, as taught by Dr. Hong, discerning right from wrong, true from false, as well as the culture of conscience fostering love and peace.

27 years ago, on December 19, our tranquil family life was disrupted in an instant.

In 1996, Taiwan held its first democratic presidential election. According to the book titled The Victim of Truth published in 2013 by a former Taiwanese prosecutor, Lin Da, although the ruling party Kuomintang (KMT) won the election, it was unhappy that some religious groups supported different candidates.

As a result, following the election, the government launched a “religious crackdown,” which targeted some of Taiwan’s most well-known religious organizations, including Fo Guang Shan, Chung Tai Chan Monastery, and the group of Master Miao Tian, among others.

Leaders of groups targeted by the 1996 crackdown: left, Master Hsing Yun of Fo Guang Shan (1927–2023, credits); right, above, Grand Master Wei Chueh of Chung Tai Chan Monastery (1928–2016, credits); below, Chan Master Miao Tian (from Twitter).
Leaders of groups targeted by the 1996 crackdown: left, Master Hsing Yun of Fo Guang Shan (1927–2023, credits); right, above, Grand Master Wei Chueh of Chung Tai Chan Monastery (1928–2016, credits); below, Chan Master Miao Tian (from Twitter).

Some group leaders were arrested and charged with fraud and tax evasion, and religious gathering places were forced to close, though the courts finally acquitted the majority of the defendants. Tai Ji Men, who did not support any political party, also became a victim of this political purge.

On December 19, 1996, then-prosecutor Hou Kuan-Jen raided 19 locations, including Tai Ji Men academies and dizi’s private houses. Despite the lack of evidence, Dr. Hong, his wife, and two dizi were detained.

The assets of Dr. Hong and his wife, even those unrelated to Tai Ji Men, were frozen. Dr. Hong and his wife were left with nothing to live on.

In 1997, Prosecutor Hou violated the principle of confidential investigation. Without having found any evidence, he rashly made public the indictment, which included unscientific and absurd accusations of “raising goblins.” He even sought evidence for this, but came up empty-handed, finding only a peach wood sword and stating it was proof of “raising goblins.” However, in Taiwanese tradition, a peach wood sword is a mascot at home; what’s more, this piece of evidence was never presented in court and was eventually lost.

Despite the indictment being filled with bizarre accusations such as “raising goblins,” which lacked any factual or legal basis and were internationally ridiculed, it allowed Taiwanese media to stir up public opinion, successfully associating Tai Ji Men with the image of a “mysterious cult.”

At that time, our family also suffered many doubts and misunderstandings from friends and relatives. However, my parents never doubted our identity and mission as Tai Ji Men dizi. In those years, we always wore our Tai Ji Men outfit with pride, attended classes in Tai Ji Men every week, and protected the academies through our actions.

Prosecutor Hou Kuan-Jen. Screenshot.
Prosecutor Hou Kuan-Jen. Screenshot.

Both my parents graduated from the law school of a well-known Taiwanese university, with professional legal knowledge, and knew well that Tai Ji Men had not committed any crimes. Therefore, they were not afraid of public opinion. From them, I learned a firm and determined understanding of discerning right from wrong, truth from falsehood.

Finally, after more than ten years of suffering, the Tai Ji Men defendants were definitively acquitted by the Supreme Court of Taiwan in 2007, which found no religious fraud, no tax evasion, and no violations of the tax law. The Supreme Court recognized that dizi’s act of paying respect to Shifu with gifts was tax-exempt.

It seemed as though the Taiwanese authorities had finally given justice to Tai Ji Men. However, unexpectedly, this was followed by sixteen years of harassment through ill-founded tax bills by the National Taxation Bureau (NTB). Eventually, the NTB agreed to correct all tax bills to zero, except the one for the year 1992. With respect to that particular tax bill, the NTB claimed that a final verdict had already been rendered against Tai Ji Men in 2006, before the Supreme Court decision of 2007, and was not subject to further appeal or revision. The NTB thus disregarded the general principle of law that a “final” decision may always be revised when subsequent facts prove it wrong, and in this case the new fact was the Supreme Court decision of 2007 that declared Tai Ji Men not guilty of tax evasion. Undaunted, the NTB proceeded to enforce the 1992 bill, and in 2020 the Administrative Enforcement Agency confiscated, unsuccessfully auctioned off, and seized Tai Ji Men’s land intended for a self-cultivation center and educational institutions.

Protests against the 2020 auction of Tai Ji Men’s sacred land
Protests against the 2020 auction of Tai Ji Men’s sacred land.

Further, during these 27 years, Dr. Hong and his wife, who had not committed any crimes, were repeatedly restricted from traveling abroad, accumulating to 2233 days for Dr. Hong and 782 days for Mrs. Hong. This severe limitation violated their right to engage in religious activities, cultural promotion, as well as their freedom of personal movement. It even resulted in Dr. Hong and his wife being unable to visit their children who studied abroad.

The Taiwanese government’s abuse of power and persecution of Tai Ji Men Shifu and dizi violated both Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, on the right to free movement, and Article 18, on freedom of religion or belief.

In the years of experiencing the wrongful case of Tai Ji Men, transitioning from childhood to middle age, I deeply realized that all these injustices happened due to the five poisons of the human heart that Dr. Hong constantly reminds us of: greed, anger, ignorance, arrogance, and skepticism. And the solution to eradicate these five poisons is conscience. One must have a conscience, and conscience requires courage. With courage, justice can prevail, and only through justice can all living beings on this earth experience peace.

My father, from his middle age to his later years, never wavered in his mission and responsibilities as a Tai Ji Men dizi, which was to fight for justice and human rights. We follow Dr. Hong’s teachings and understand that our efforts are not only to redress Tai Ji Men’s wrongful case, but also to show our compassion and empathy with the many innocent people around the world who are persecuted by tax and other state authorities. We fight for their rights and freedoms, as well as for those of our future generations.

Shortly before my father passed away, he still braved the scorching sun, took to the streets, and called on the Taiwanese government to govern with a conscience, implement tax reforms, and return Tai Ji Men’s land.

A few months after my father’s death, my two daughters, now aged five and seven, were also very fortunate to become Tai Ji Men dizi, learning to express their innate conscience, bring positive energy to those around them, and pass on the culture and education of conscience, love and peace.

Tai Ji Men’s journey is about fighting for conscience and justice. I sincerely hope that everyone here can join us, uphold conscience, persist in doing the right thing, bravely defend human rights and freedom, and let our world develop sustainably under the guidance of love and peace.

Source: Bitter Winter