The European Union is rising its cooperation with Taiwan. It’s an important financial companion, significantly (however not solely) within the area of semiconductors.
It is usually a geopolitical companion for a Europe more and more involved with the expansionism of non-democratic superpowers.
Though we at the moment are witnessing in Ukraine a return of conventional boots-on-the-ground warfare, it’s nonetheless true that fashionable wars are additionally fought within the enviornment of propaganda and public relations.
Taiwan could also be a dependable companion for Europe provided that it maintains a picture as a beacon of democracy in a area suffering from non-democratic regimes.
For causes everyone knows, Taiwan just isn’t a member state of the United Nations, however it affirmed its dedication to the U.N. human rights ideas when it included into its home regulation in 2009 the “two Covenants,” the Worldwide Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Worldwide Covenant on Financial, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).
In all international locations, not in Taiwan solely, reaching a full respect of the 2 Covenants just isn’t simple. Once more, Taiwan gave a constructive sign when it devised a system for reviewing its achievements in complying with the 2 Covenants, which concerned unbiased worldwide specialists.
In 2011, Taiwan’s authorities initiated the method of making ready experiences on the rights protected by each Covenants, and in 2013, an unbiased Assessment Committee with specialists from 9 completely different international locations was invited to evaluate these experiences. In 2013 and 2017, the specialists examined the federal government’s experiences and formulated their observations and proposals. A evaluate by the specialists of the federal government’s 2020 solutions to the second report was delayed due to COVID-19 till, from 9 to 13 Could 2022, a Assessment Committee consisting of 9 unbiased specialists convened in Taipei.
On 13 Could 2022, the Assessment Committee adopted a 3rd set of Concluding Observations and Suggestions (COR 3), after an Worldwide Assessment Convention to which representatives of Taiwan’s civil society additionally participated. It was the primary such evaluate because the Nationwide Human Rights Fee was established in 2020.
The COR 3 present that work stays to be finished to completely implement the 2 Covenants in Taiwan. Actually, regardless of the federal government’s claims, the 2 Covenants nonetheless don’t play a major function in courtroom instances. In line with the federal government itself, just some 100 instances talked about them between 2015 and 2019. Clearly, extra needs to be finished.
Then again, the absence within the COR 3 of any reference to freedom of faith or perception (FORB) and taxpayers’ rights is shocking. As one of many students who has studied and lectured extensively on the Tai Ji Males case, I might have anticipated that each topics would have been mentioned within the COR 3. Again and again, those that have studied the Tai Ji Males case have famous that it’s not an remoted incident and that each FORB and tax justice appear to be issues value of probably the most critical consideration when assessing the scenario of human rights in Taiwan.
Through the five-day dialogue, a number of NGO representatives and students identified to the above issues and referred to the Tai Ji Males case.
Three most important issues emerged.
First, Taiwan has a Nationwide Human Rights Fee however the way it precisely works stays unclear, significantly when confronted with instances involving the Nationwide Taxation Bureau and the Administrative Enforcement Company. Within the Tai Ji Males case, a grievance was handled by the Fee by merely asking the accused government department to arrange a letter, after which utilizing that letter to reply the complainants. Second, human rights issues linked with tax justice stay unaddressed by the Fee and by COR 3. A site visitors fantastic of NT$18,000, resulted in a seizure and foreclosures of the offender’s home, valued at NT$2.5 million.
A taxpayer was restricted from leaving the nation indefinitely, and needed to stay overseas for 9 years, leading to a divorce. Whereas the Ministry of Finance has subsequently lowered the interval of restriction of leaving the nation to 5 years, the Administrative Enforcement Company remains to be allowed to put residence restrictions on individuals whose tax debt reached about US $3,500, with no limitation on length.
One other instance is the case of Dr. L. He’s a famend scientist who returned to Taiwan and utilized for a patent value $10 million as the corporate’s capital, with the approval of the authorities, and was then taxed as if the capital contribution was earnings. He went bankrupt and misplaced his patents and enterprise.
The variety of interpretations of the tax regulation which have been declared unconstitutional is so excessive that it evidences a systemic lack of software of the 2 Covenants. The Taxpayer Safety Act of 2017 created the Taxpayer Safety Officer, however these officers usually are not actually unbiased.
They’re tax bureaucrats who serve part-time and return to their unique positions after two years. On the whole, the system of bonuses given to tax bureaucrats incentives them to concern ill-founded tax payments and to violate taxpayers’ human rights. It needs to be deeply reformed or eradicated.
The system additionally permits the tax authorities to keep up the unique tax payments indefinitely, even after courtroom choices have established that they’re ill-founded. Within the Interpretation Letter Orders issued by Ministry of Finance in 1961, 1978, and 1979, the unique tax invoice and the brand new double-reviewed tax invoice issued by the Nationwide Taxation Bureau following the evaluate coexist.
The revocation of the unique sanction in a subsequent petition or an administrative courtroom determination is a “revocation of the re-examined tax invoice,” however doesn’t revoke the “unique tax invoice.”
The consequence is that, even when the taxpayer wins the case a number of instances, the unique tax invoice stays.
Moreover, the residents’ proper to request a tax refund has been topic to a time restrict of 15 years, when there was beforehand no time restrict for requesting a refund for an incorrect taxation by tax companies.
The legal guidelines on disqualifying judges who’ve already served in earlier phases of a case additionally must be amended, they usually have created critical issues in tax instances. Tax injustice just isn’t a technical downside however a critical violation of human rights and of the 2 Covenants.
A second space mentioned within the convention is transitional justice, i.e., the restoration of rights violated by the earlier non-democratic regime after a transition to democracy. The present President of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-Wen, made transitional justice for victims of previous Taiwanese authoritarian and post-authoritarian regimes a precedence of her administration.
That is commendable, however provisions on transitional justice solely confer with human rights violations perpetrated till November 6, 1992.
Nevertheless, these violations continued even after that date, because the Tai Ji Males case demonstrates.
A 3rd space issues the legal guidelines regulating the rights of meeting and to carry peaceable demonstrations.
Whereas amendments have been promised, the present legal guidelines nonetheless give the police a broad scope to disclaim authorizations.
Opposite to what the federal government experiences, such denials are frequent. On the whole, freedom of speech and of peaceable protest continues to be unduly restricted.
International students have commented on the case of Ms. Huang, a protester on the Tai Ji Males tax case, who was detained in 2020 only for holding an indication a bureaucrat considered offensive.
The Tai Ji Males case is a blatant and unresolved case of human rights violations, on which a major scholarly literature exists each in Taiwan and internationally.
Tai Ji Males is a “menpai” (related to a college) instructing qigong, martial arts, and self-cultivation whose grasp, his spouse, and two members have been detained in 1996, accused of fraud, tax evasion, and even, absurdly, of “elevating goblins” by a prosecutor referred to as Hou Kuan-Jen.
In 2007, a closing determination of the courtroom of third occasion acknowledged them as not responsible of any crime, together with tax evasion, they usually acquired nationwide compensation for the unjust detention.
Nevertheless, not solely was Prosecutor Hou by no means punished for his violations of the regulation within the Tai Ji Males case, however based mostly on his theories that have been declared unfounded in 2007, the Nationwide Taxation Bureau continued to concern tax payments and eventually maintained the one for the yr 1992.
Based mostly on this invoice, in 2020 the Nationwide Enforcement Company auctioned off unsuccessfully and confiscated land meant for a Tai Ji Males self-cultivation middle. This generated mass protests. The case contains a number of egregious violations of human rights, and any critical evaluation of Taiwan’s compliance with the 2 Covenants ought to examine it.
The Tai Ji Males case just isn’t about taxes solely. It’s a case the place rogue bureaucrats and politicians first tried, unsuccessfully, to destroy a non secular motion accused of not supporting the powers that be, then, annoyed by their authorized defeats, continued to harass it by taxes.
The case is on the crossroads of spiritual liberty and tax justice, and is an important take a look at for Taiwan’s democratic achievements.