On UN International Day of Peace, scholars and human right activists discussed the issues and foundations of world peace and called for a solution of the Tai Ji Men case.
by Alessandro Amicarelli
On September 21, 2023, United Nations International Day of Peace, CESNUR and Human Rights Without Frontiers co-organized one of their bi-monthly webinars on the Tai Ji Men case, with the title “Tai Ji Men: Testimonies of Peace and Justice.”
Willy Fautré, co-founder and director of Human Rights Without Frontiers, introduced the webinar. He compared the Peace Bell used by the United Nations for the International Day of Peace yearly ceremonies with Tai Ji Men’s Bell of World Peace and Love. The UN Peace Bell, dating back to 1954, is made of metal from coins donated from 65 member countries. The Bell of World Peace and Love, Fautré said, has been rung by more than 500 VIPs and creates powerful vibrations for solving conflicts, something that is especially needed today. Conflicts, he concluded, are not only wars. They include the aggression against Tai Ji Men that compromised their peace of mind through more than 27 years of persecution and tax harassment.
Fautré then presented a video with a message for the International Day of Peace from UN Secretary General António Guterres, who insisted that there may be no peace without justice, human rights, and sustainable development.
Fautré introduced the two scholars who spoke in the first session, Sara Susana Pozos Bravo, a professor at the Universidad Sämann de Jalisco in Guadalajara, Mexico, and Attila Miklovicz, a doctoral candidate at University of Pécs, Hungary.
Pozos Bravo noted that increasingly scholars throughout the world agree that peace is a human right, both for nations and for individuals. It includes the right to be, as the English expression says, “left in peace,” without being persecuted or harassed by state authorities. This, Pozos Bravo said, did not happen to Tai Ji Men. The prosecutor who fabricated the Tai Ji Men case in 1996 systematically denied the right to peace of its Shifu (Grand Master) and dizi (disciples). Institutional persecution and state violence, Pozos Bravo said, destroy the right to peace. Unfortunately, she concluded, both in the Tai Ji Men case and in similar cases in other countries, government authorities whose mandate should be to guarantee and protect the citizens’ right to peace were the first who violated this right.
Miklovicz focused its attention on how often false accusations of tax evasion and financial irregularities are used against religious and spiritual groups. He mentioned the persecution of the newly established Communist regime in Hungary against Catholic Cardinal József Mindszenty, who was arrested in 1948 inter alia on false charges of financial fraud. He then examined the Tai Ji Men case, emphasizing that the main tool of persecution was the false and abusive claim that the content of the “red envelopes” customarily offered by disciples to their Master did not consist of non-taxable gifts but of taxable tuition fees for a so-called cram school. The claim was maintained even after the Ministry of Education, which is responsible for cram schools, stated that Tai Ji Men was not a cram school, and ultimately led to the seizure, unsuccessful auction, and confiscation in 2020 of sacred land intended for a self-cultivation and educational center.
Miklovicz compared the events in Taiwan with the crackdown in Hungary on the Church of Scientology, which was accused of offering services that were not really religious and spiritual and therefore not tax-exempts. Hungarian tax authorities maintained these charges notwithstanding the fact that both scholars and courts of law repeatedly concluded that Scientology’s practices are religious in their essence. Both the Tai Ji Men case in Taiwan and the Scientology case in Hungary, Miklovicz concluded, demonstrate how tax laws are weaponized in various countries to illegally discriminate against certain religious and spiritual movements.
Marco Respinti, an Italian journalist and scholar who serves as director-in-charge of “Bitter Winter,” chaired the second session. He noted the urgence of an in-depth discourse on peace and reported how as a journalist on the very International Peace Day 2023 he was following the tragic events in Nagorno-Karabakh and the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Respinti then presented testimonies of five Tai Ji Men dizi. Jessica Ho, an undergraduate university student majoring in Finance, reported her long experience of speaking and performing in public as a Tai Ji Men dizi, which started when she was only 14. It culminated this past month of August at Chicago’s Parliament of the World’s Religions where, after a careful and difficult preparation, Ho performed the Golden Phoenix, which represents courage, resilience, and brightness. These are the values, Ho said, she was taught by Tai Ji Men’s Shifu, Dr. Hong Tao-Tze, who also helped her resist the slander and persecution in Taiwan.
Patrick Lee, a Lieutenant Colonel Research Instructor, shared his experience as a military man and a teacher of war history who learned from Dr. Hong that his mission and job are not incompatible with a deep love for peace. However, Lee said, peace should start with justice and respect for human rights in domestic issues, which were denied to Tai Ji Men in Taiwan. He compared the actions of Prosecutor Hou Kuan-Jen, who started the Tai Ji Men case and systematically violated the law, with the evil deeds of Qin Hui, a chancellor of Emperor Gaozong of Song who had the patriotic general Yue Fei arrested and conspired to have him illegally executed.
Erica Chuang, who works as an account manager, reported her professional experience in improving the ESG (Environment, Social, and Governance) performance of her company, something businesses throughout the world are now encouraged to achieve. Peace is an essential component of ESG and is at the center of the message Tai Ji Men Shifu and dizi are taking to all continents of the world. Why do they do it, Chuang asked. She answered that Dr. Hong once explained that the Chinese character for “martial arts” (武) is formed by combining the characters “stop” (止) and “weapons” (戈), thus revealing that the essence of martial arts lies in “stopping conflict” or “ending wars,” both at the international and at the domestic and personal levels. This also includes, Chuang concluded, eliminating tax injustice and solving the Tai Ji Men case.
Jerry Tzeng, a vaccine researcher, insisted that peace does not only concern relations between countries and within countries, but also between humans and nature. This is a lesson, he said, we should have learned from recent pandemics. His job, Tzeng said, includes making sure that SOP (Standard Operating Procedures) are followed in the delicate field of vaccines, learning from previous mistakes. There are SOP also in the field of taxes, Tzeng noted, but they were not respected in the Tai Ji Men case, with the result that errors were accumulated and magnified rather than corrected.
Respinti then presented the video “Silent No More,” introducing a 3-day exhibition held in Taiwan about tax injustice earlier this month, which attracted thousands of enthusiastic visitors who expressed their support for an immediately needed tax and legal reform.
Daicy Su, a freelance writer, reported that according to the 2021 Taiwan Public Satisfaction with the Administration of Justice and Prevention of Crime Survey, 67% of Taiwanese do not trust judges to adjudicate cases in a fair and impartial manner. Several well-publicized cases confirm that Taiwanese citizens have good reasons for this distrust, especially in the field of taxes, where courts of law appear to be unable or unwilling to resist and correct the injustices of bureaucrats. That may induce pessimism on the possibility of solving the Tai Ji Men case, Su said. However, she was inspired and encouraged by the international support of Tai Ji Men she encountered when attending the 2023 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago. She expressed the hope that this support may cause a change of attitude in Taiwan.
Massimo Introvigne, an Italian sociologist who serves as Managing Director of CESNUR and editor-in-chief of “Bitter Winter,” offered the conclusions of the webinar. He emphasized the connection between taxes and peace through the figure of Louis Renault, a French scholar of international law and the co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1907. Renault was credited with avoiding a war by being instrumental in solving a conflict between the Japanese government and foreign taxpayers who felt they were being unjustly taxed and were supported by their governments. Unfortunately, the Imperial Japanese government did not comply with the arbitration award until thirty years later, and by that time the tax case had poisoned Japan’s international relations and contributed to the climate that would lead to the country’s ill-fated involvement in World War II. While differently interpreted by historians, the incident demonstrates that taxes and peace are connected, Introvigne said, a lesson the Taiwanese government should meditate on when dealing with the Tai Ji Men case.
The event concluded with two videos, which presented past performances of Tai Ji Men dizi throughout the world, introducing the grand opening in October of two new Tai Ji Men Qigong Academies in Pasadena and Santa Clara, California. The Academies will surely become new important centers for spreading a message of peace and love.