A generation of dizi confronted rogue tax bureaucrats, whose acts at times were reminiscent of the Corleone family in The Godfather.
by Susan Wang-Selfridge
I would like to share my point of view on Tai Ji Men as a cultural-spiritual cultivation institution and its unwavering 25-year journey in pursuit of redress for the violation of taxpayers human rights at the hands of corrupt government bureaucrats in Taiwan. Their prolonged efforts are not only for themselves, but also serve to trail-blaze a safe path for the people of Taiwan to live without fear from governmental officials’ unlawful abuse of power in the form of taxation for personal gain. It is especially significant to talk about the case as we are celebrating the second United Nations’ International Day of Conscience on April 5 and today (April 6) because no human rights can be fully protected unless people’s innate conscience has been awakened.
When I first joined Tai Ji Men, Los Angeles academy in 2005, the organization was in the process of navigating the entanglements of a very complicated criminal case, which also instigated a tax prosecution that had spanned eight years at the home base in Taiwan. In summer 2007, Tai Ji Men was found innocent of all criminal charges by the Taiwan Supreme Court, in a ruling that effectively should have purged the tax issue as well, since the tax case was based on a fabricated criminal indictment by Prosecutor Hou Kuan-jen. However, the tax authority ignored the court’s ruling and reissued the tax bills.
For the following 16 years, the National Taxation Bureau (NTB) ignored court order after court order and in August 2020, directed the Administrative Enforcement Agency to illegally auction land owned by Tai Ji Men in defiance of a cease-and-desist order from the court. When the auction failed to receive bids, the agency seized the land, which was intended to be the building site for Tai Ji Men’s holistic cultivation center.
These inconceivably egregious behaviors all occurred in the 21stcentury modernized Taiwan governmental system. I couldn’t help but associate the greedy and corrupt taxation bureaucrats with the classical movie trilogy “The Godfather,” and how the criminal families harassed and extorted the general citizenry, often using violence to disrupt businesses to gain power and profit. The patriarch of the Corleone family, Vito’s, most memorable quote goes, “I am gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” The scene parallels the actions of some corrupted tax officials who are incentivized by bonuses for collecting taxes. These officials often arbitrarily bill taxpayers without actually investigating the nature of their income, or the existence of the alleged income. Even more so, according to some Taiwanese business owners I have encountered, some unscrupulous tax collectors will come to a business and demand tax payments regardless of the actual income tax liability. If the business refuses, the tax collectors will send an audit team and threaten to go over the entire business detail by detail. Threatened by the disruption of normal business by the tax audit, they often just pay off the officials, who get bonuses on the amount collected, regardless of the legitimacy, making these tax officials’ actions indistinguishable from the Corleones’.
The people are essentially powerless to stop these actions. In rare cases that someone, like Tai Ji Men’s grandmaster Dr. Hong, refuses to pay the illegal tax bills and gets judicial rulings in his/her favor, the Taiwan National Taxation Bureau (NTB) not only ignores the rulings, but also ignores the evidence provided by the people. Some bureaucrats may even lie, forge documents, conceal evidence, and deceive the people and continue their unlawful actions. If these bureaucrats can do whatever it takes to collect taxes, they are no different from an organized criminal syndicate.
The purpose of a government is to protect its people and to provide law, order and effective remedies; at the same time, providing economic opportunities and public services to ensure people’s well-being and happiness. It is crucial for the governmental officials to set conscientious examples when they exercise the power that was entrusted by the people. When a public servant makes mistakes, the government should take action to hold the public servant accountable, while taking proactive remedies is of imperative importance. In the Bible, in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 19, verses 1–10, the unsavory tax collector Zacchaeus said to Jesus when they met at his house, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.” From this illuminated example, we see how a corrupt official can come to terms with conscience, and take concrete actions to amend unlawful mistakes.
During the long and treacherous journey of redressing Tai Ji Men’s case, a few concerned representatives suggested Dr. Hong to settle the case with the taxation bureau, after negotiating “an offer that was too good to refuse.” Unhesitatingly, Dr. Hong immediately rejected the idea of settling, and expressed in a very determined tone that the whole point of never succumbing to the unjust governmental machine is to lead by example, so the members of Tai Ji Men can learn to distinguish true from false, good from bad, and right from wrong.
Rising like a phoenix from the ashes, Dr. Hong, Mrs. Hong and many fellow Tai Ji Men brothers and sisters have gone through tremendous pain and suffering during the pursuit of justice. Their sacrifice is not in vain. The road to restoring justice is bumpy, and the path to legal and tax reform is even harsher. However, Tai Ji Men is not alone in this journey as more and more people, especially experts from the legal field and retired senior officials of taxation units, have joined them in the struggle for human rights. Meanwhile, more and more young people realize that they should save their own country. Although young and inexperienced, they demonstrated a great deal of courage and determination. The ray of hope for a better future where all people can live with peace of mind and dignity illuminates their eyes.
I encourage all of you to extend your support, by using your voices to bring international awareness to the unlawful actions of some bureaucrats of the National Taxation Bureau, which are operating more like an organized crime syndicate than as respected members of a governmental agency. That said, I would like to conclude with a quotation by Nelson Mandela, “Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.” It’s time for the Taiwan Government to act from the conscience, and it’s time for us world citizens to rise for human rights!