Rogue bureaucrats guilty of human rights violations should be prosecuted to prevent further abuse.
by David Lin*
*A paper presented at the Webinar “Tax Justice as Social Justice: The Tai Ji Men Protest in Taiwan,” February 20, 2020
“Effective remedies” are very important for human rights protection and for preventing future human rights abuses in a democratic country under the rule of law. In 2009, Taiwan incorporated the ICCPR (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) and ICESCR (International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) into its domestic law. The two Covenants are considered lower than the Constitution, but higher than all other laws in Taiwan, and supplement the Constitution.
Regarding “effective remedies,” the two Covenants require that besides offering compensation and public apologies to victims, perpetrators of human rights violations should be punished and brought to justice. Otherwise, it is like no investigation is done, and further violations of the Covenants can occur. This requirement is stated in General Comment No. 31 of the ICCPR and is imposed on the states parties. It is also stipulated in Article 24 of Taiwan’s Constitution.
The Tai Ji Men case is a case of human rights violations that has lasted for over 24 years. There are two main perpetrators in the case: former prosecutor Hou Kuan-jen and former Finance Minister Chang Sheng-ford.
The Control Yuan referred prosecutor Hou to the Ministry of Justice in 2002, demanding it to take disciplinary action against Hou. However, the case was eventually dismissed under the protection of the Ministry of Justice and other prosecutors, and the Control Yuan failed to actively exercise its authority to follow up on the case. Such actions by government officials violated the requirement for effective remedies for victims stipulated in the two Covenants and the Constitution. The negative impact is that the tax bureau has continued to use Hou’s unlawful indictment against Tai Ji Men since 2002.
Tai Ji Men’s case of tax injustice started when Hou sent incorrect and false indictment information to the tax bureau for taxation. The tax bureau just used the information without conducting its own investigation and illegally imposed taxes and penalties on Tai Ji Men. Let me explain this in greater detail.
- In 1997, prosecutor Hou claimed that the money involved in the Tai Ji Men case was the proceeds of crime and should be confiscated, but he also claimed that the same money was tuition and business income of a cram school and should be taxed. By law, since the prosecutor claimed the money was the proceeds of crime and should be confiscated, there should not have been any issue of taxation. However, the tax bureau failed to wait for the criminal court to clarify the nature of the money and failed to investigate the matter in accordance with its authority. It issued a tax bill to Tai Ji Men in late 1997.
- In 2000, the tax bureau admitted in a letter to the Taipei City Field Office of the Investigation Bureau that the content, nature, and amount of the initial tax bill were based on the information and calculation reported by this office. This proved that the tax bureau failed to investigate before it issued the initial tax bill.
- In 2002, the Control Yuan’s investigation report listed prosecutor Hou’s eight major violations of the law in his investigation of the Tai Ji Men case, and concluded that the indictment contradicted the evidentiary facts and information, so it was against the law of evidence to bring such a public prosecution. Hou admitted that he did not investigate the matter thoroughly.
- In 2007, the third criminal trial ruling concluded that the red envelopes given by Tai Ji Men dizi (disciples) to their shifu (master) were gifts and thus tax-free under Article 4, Section 17 of the Income Tax Act. The decision also found that the group purchase of practice uniforms and other goods by some dizi on behalf of others was not a profit-making sale. It has nothing to do with the shifu or his wife.
- In 2009, the Control Yuan found that the tax bureau failed to verify the information and the nature of the income concerning the Tai Ji Men case.
- In 2012, the tax bureau admitted that Tai Ji Men is not a cram school; therefore, the tax bureau’s taxing Tai Ji Men as a cram school for the year 1992 (and for all other years) has been illegal from the very beginning.
- In 2012, the tax bureau’s public survey results showed that the 7,401 returned survey forms all indicated that the red envelopes given to the shifu were gifts, consistent with the criminal court decision.
- In 2019, the tax bureau corrected the tax amount to zero for five of the six years, namely, 1991 and 1993-1996.
These facts proved that the taxes imposed on Tai Ji Men were totally unjustified! How could the tax bureau unlawfully treat the red envelopes for 1992 as tuition for a cram school?
I will now examine former Finance Minister Chang Sheng-ford’s role in the Tai Ji Men case.
- In 2000, as Director of the National Taxation Bureau of Taipei, Chang Sheng-ford attended a public hearing in the Legislative Yuan. The Ministry of Education, in charge of cram schools, repeatedly emphasized that Tai Ji Men is not a cram school, but the National Taxation Bureau of Taipei, in charge of investigating the tax case for the six years, overstepped the authority of the Ministry of Education and taxed Tai Ji Men as a cram school.
- In 2003, Chang forged official documents and concealed all the returned survey forms after the tax bureau’s investigation. The returned survey forms were evidence favorable to Dr. Hong and his wife. The concealment made the Petitions and Appeals Committee of the Ministry of Finance make a wrong decision on Tai Ji Men’s appeals.
- In 2003, to cover up his unlawful execution of the auction of the property of Dr. Hong and his wife, Chang backdated an official document with a correction fluid. This illegal act was exposed in court!
- In 2010, as Deputy Finance Minister, Chang promised to resolve the Tai Ji Men tax case within two months at a public hearing of the Legislative Yuan, but he later violated the doctrine of estoppel and deceived the legislators and the people at the hearing.
- In 2012, as soon as Chang took office as Finance Minister, he overturned the resolution of the inter-ministerial meeting of the Executive Yuan in 2011, and the administrative commitment of former Finance Minister Lee Sush-der. The meeting resolution and former Minister Lee’s promise was to settle the Tai Ji Men case based on the investigation results of the 7,401 survey forms, and the information from prosecutor Hou and the investigation bureau can no longer be used as the basis for taxation.
Hou Kuan-jen and Chang Sheng-ford have committed many wrongdoings but have not been punished. They even got promoted. If the Control Yuan, responsible for impeaching illegal officials, and prosecutors, responsible for prosecuting criminal cases, had fulfilled their duties, had not protected their own, and had given Hou Kuan-jen and Chang Sheng-ford the punishment they deserved, then Chang Sheng-ford might not have attended the public hearing in the Legislative Yuan in 2010 as Deputy Finance Minister, and might not have been promoted to Finance Minister in 2012. Without the continued persecution from these officials, the Tai Ji Men case might have been resolved according to the law long ago.
Therefore, the perpetrators need to be punished to ensure effective remedies for the victims, as stipulated in the two Covenants and the Constitution.
The Holocaust occurred over 70 years ago, but German prosecutors still prosecute the perpetrators of Nazi-era crimes. The reason is to realize effective remedies and honor international human rights.
Since Taiwan has established the National Human Rights Commission and considered itself in line with the Paris Principles, the Control Yuan should exercise its authority and punish the officials involved in the decades-long Tai Ji Men case of injustice in accordance with the law as soon as possible to uphold human rights.
Pursuant to the Constitution of Taiwan, the ICCPR, the ICESCR, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, relevant government officials should administer their duties according to the law, and all illegal tax bills and illegal auctions should be revoked. The confiscated land belonging to Tai Ji Men should be returned, and the government should return justice to Tai Ji Men’s shifu and dizi and clear their names.