Read by Rebecca Wang, a Tai Ji Men dizi (disciple), on July 18, 2022, during the webinar “Tai Ji Men: The Road to Freedom,” and forwarded to international leaders in the religious liberty field.
by Tai Ji Men Dizi
You may sign a petition supporting Tai Ji Men; signatures will be transmitted to the relevant Taiwanese authorities.
You may also watch for free “Who Stole Their Youth? The Tai Ji Men Case in Taiwan,” a new movie written and directed by Massimo Introvigne.
What is Tai Ji Men?
Tai Ji Men Qigong Academy is an ancient menpai (similar to a school) of qigong, martial arts, and self-cultivation, deeply rooted in Taoist wisdom. It was legally established in Taiwan in 1966 and is active in the United States too. Its core spiritual worldview is the attainment of the harmony between yin and yang, heaven and earth, as well as heart (body) and qi (energy). Tai Ji Men dizi (disciples) come from all walks of life and all religions, and are not asked to convert to Taoism. Through the practice of inner beliefs and the practice of qigong and martial arts, dizi strive to strengthen their bodies, purify their hearts, and return to the origin of their souls.
What are the “red envelopes”?
The leader of Tai Ji Men (Shifu) is Dr. Hong Tao-Tze. Disciples establish a master-disciple relationship with Dr. Hong through an ancient ceremony, in which they also give to their Shifu monetary gifts in red envelopes. This is a traditional custom in both martial arts and religious communities in Taiwan. Under Article 4, Section 1 Item 17 of the Taiwan Income Tax Act, these gifts are exempt from income tax. Before 1996, the National Taxation Bureau never cast in doubt that the red envelopes included non-taxable gifts either in the case of Tai Ji Men or any other spiritual group in Taiwan.
Why was a legal persecution initiated against Tai Ji Men?
Taiwan’s transition from authoritarianism to democracy was long and complicated. In 1996, Taiwan had its first direct presidential election but the ruling party did not expect serious opposition against the re-election of its president. It also expected religious groups to actively support this re-election. Eventually, the president was re-elected but with a narrower margin that its party expected. The religious groups that opposed him or (as in the case of the Tai Ji Men) did not show active support were targeted by a crackdown that led to the arrest of several leaders of religious movements, including the Shifu of Tai Ji Men (together with his wife and two dizi). The accusations were fraud and tax evasion.
What was the outcome of the criminal prosecution of Tai Ji Men?
Like in most other cases of spiritual movements which were victims of the 1996 crackdown, the Tai Ji Men defendants were exonerated from all charges in first degree, on appeal, and by a final decision of the Supreme Court in 2007. The Supreme Court explicitly stated that there was no tax evasion and that the red envelopes included non-taxable gifts. The Tai Ji Men defendants even received national compensation for the previous unjust imprisonment.
Why did the Tai Ji Men case continue after the 2007 Supreme Court verdict?
Without waiting for the criminal case to conclude, the National Taxation Bureau had issued tax bills for the years 1991 to 1996, claiming that the red envelopes did not include gifts but taxable tuition fees. The tax bills for different years were litigated separately. The case concerning the bill for the year 1992 was decided before the others, and the Supreme Administrative Court ruled against Tai Ji Men in 2006. This was before the Criminal Division of the Supreme Court declared in 2007 Tai Ji Men not guilty of any offense including tax evasion. Logically, the 2006 verdict of the Supreme Administrative Court, although technically final, should have been revised in light of the new fact, i.e., the 2007 verdict of the Criminal Division of the Supreme Court. However this did not happen. Relying on the technicality that the Supreme Administrative Court verdict of 2006 was final, tax authorities moved to enforce the bill for 1992, while acknowledging both that the bills for all the other years should be reduced to zero and that Tai Ji Men’s gift practices had not been different in 1992 with respect to the other years. In 2020, based on the 1992 tax bill, the authorities seized, auctioned unsuccessfully, and then confiscated sacred land of Tai Ji Men intended for a self-cultivation center, generating widespread street protests by Tai Ji Men dizi both in Taiwan and the United States.
What do Tai Ji Men dizi want?
They ask for a political solution of their case, which needs international support. The government, courts of law, and tax authorities themselves have acknowledged that the content of the red envelopes includes non-taxable gifts. If this is true for all other years, it should be true also for the 1992. Technicalities should be overcome in favor of the only solution in agreement with substantial justice and freedom of religion or belief: publicly acknowledge that Tai Ji Men was never guilty of tax evasion, and give back to the dizi their sacred land.