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A Question of Religious Freedom: Tai Ji Men Case in Taiwan

Tai Ji Men’s Protest in the US

Tai Ji Men members from various cities of the United States protest against the 24-year persecution of Tai Ji Men by a few rogue bureaucrats in Taiwan in front of the White House on July 16, 2021.

Lack of Accountability for Rogue Bureaucrats’ Persecution of Tai Ji Men Perpetuates the Unjust Case for 24 Years

Action Alliance to Redress 1219 is a partner of International Religious Freedom (IRF) Summit 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 17, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The International Religious Freedom (IRF) Summit 2021, the largest and most important religious freedom event of the year, took place in the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington D.C. on July 13–15, with over 1,000 people in attendance. As a Summit partner, the Action Alliance to Redress 1219 hosted its second workshop titled “A Question of Justice: The Tai Ji Men Case” on July 15, with over 4,300 advocates for religious liberty participating in the event either in person or online.

As the workshop started, former U.S. Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, co-chair of the IRF Summit 2021, greeted the audience and thanked Bitter Winter, an online magazine, for being a co-sponsor for the Summit. Ambassador Brownback praised Prof. Massimo Introvigne, editor-in-chief of Bitter Winter, for being a great investigator, who wrote about what happened to Tai Ji Men in Taiwan. Ambassador Brownback stated that freedom of religion is a fundamental human right, without which humanity cannot flourish. He emphasized that this right should be safeguarded for everyone, everywhere, all the time. This sentiment also aligns with this Summit’s Charter of Religious Freedom, which highlights the “freedom of religion and conscience.” While different religious groups may practice their values in various ways, “we believe governments’ role is to protect that innate right of a person to select their own course of future for their soul,” stated Ambassador Brownback.

During the Summit, Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, president of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice and co-chair of the IRF Summit 2021, emphasized the importance of conscience, saying that if people can always keep themselves attuned to hear their conscience, it will whisper to them the difference between right and wrong despite the temptations and ugliness in the world. The concept of conscience mentioned by Dr. Swett is very relevant to the Tai Ji Men case.

Pamela Chen, on behalf of tens of thousands of Tai Ji Men dizi (disciples), pointed out that their religious freedom has been violated in Taiwan for 24 years. She lamented that “Taiwan’s taxation bureau issued unlawful tax bills to Tai Ji Men simply based on a fabricated indictment, without conducting any substantive investigation. That was against conscience. In 2007, Taiwan’s Supreme Court found Tai Ji Men not guilty of tax evasion or any other charges, confirming that Tai Ji Men did not owe any tax, but Taiwan’s taxation bureau continued to impose unjustified taxes on Tai Ji Men. That was against conscience. The leader of Tai Ji Men did not owe any tax, but his land intended for a spiritual center was confiscated. That was theft of his property and was against conscience. We are Tai Ji Men dizi in the U.S. We are now speaking out to the international community, seeking support to urge the Taiwanese government to correct its mistakes and implement true democracy and human rights.”

Tai Ji Men is a spiritual organization that practices qigong and martial arts, with 15 academies in the United States and Taiwan. It has been dedicated to promoting a culture of love, peace, and conscience. To date, it has traveled to 101 countries, influencing heads of state and leaders of all countries to do the right thing,” added Chen.

Kenneth Jacobsen, professor of law at Temple University, Philadelphia, the U.S. and former advisor to U.S. President Bill Clinton, has studied the Tai Ji Men case for years and written a paper on this case. He shared that he was offended by the major violations of law by the few rogue bureaucrats throughout the Tai Ji Men case. Like Tai Ji Men dizi (disciples), Prof. Jacobsen loves Taiwan and the people of Taiwan, and that is exactly the reason why these officials should be held accountable so that no one else will suffer. Prof. Jacobsen ended by calling upon President Tsai Ing-wen and other leaders of Taiwan to “fix the mistakes of the past. “To allow errors to continue, to perpetuate mistakes that were made in the past is as bad, if not worse, than committing those mistakes in the first place.” Prof. Jacobsen stated, “What I would like to say to the Taiwan government is: ‘Do the right thing!’”

Prof. Massimo Introvigne, sociologist, managing director of Center for Studies on New Religions, and co-author of a white paper on the Tai Ji Men case, joined the workshop remotely, emphasizing that Taiwan is a democratic country. “Wrong bureaucrats of course exist everywhere, including in my own country of Italy, but the democratic test is whether other powers in a democratic state are able to keep rogue bureaucrats in check.” He said that Tai Ji Men is really a vibrant, flourishing religious culture and that “I believe friends of Taiwan precisely should be in the first row calling for a solution of the Tai Ji Men case.” He emphasized that the Tai Ji Men case “is not a tax case, if it was, it would have been settled long ago. It is a matter of principle and a test for freedom of religion or belief.”

Marco Respinti, director in charge of Bitter Winter, also attended the forum online. He said that Bitter Winter has closely and regularly followed the Tai Ji Men case. The case is a tragedy because it is a story of the prosecution of the innocent at the beginning and then goes on for almost a quarter of a century. Respinti said that it is a journalist’s responsibility to focus on cases like the Tai Ji Men case and confront a prosecutor’s untrue accusations, such as raising goblins. Taiwan stands for democracy, and he urges the Taiwanese government to clear the names of Tai Ji Men Shifu (master) and dizi (disciples) and re-establish justice. Respinti calls for all media’s to report typical human rights violation cases like the Tai Ji Men case and to ultimately rectify the case.

About Action Alliance to Redress 1219: Action Alliance to Redress 1219 is a group of international and Taiwanese legal, religious, and human rights specialists working to restore the truth about the ongoing persecution of Tai Ji Men in Taiwan by a small group of bureaucrats that has lasted for 24 years, as well as their misuse of authority and violations of the law. In addition to rectifying the Tai Ji Men case and revealing the truth, it is also committed to defending religious freedom, speaking out for related injustices in Taiwan. The Alliance calls on those in power not to ignore people’s fundamental human rights and demands that perpetrators be held accountable to protect democracy, the rule of law, and justice.

Media Contact:
Lily Chen
Representative
[email protected]
626-202-5268
https://act1219.org/eng/

A photo accompanying this announcement is available at https://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/64aeaf34-80a7-489a-aef0-1553fe693ebc

The photo is also available at Newscom, www.newscom.com, and via AP PhotoExpress.

COVID-19 swab tests compulsory before entering Kelantan – Exco

Individuals wishing to enter Kelantan need to show proof that they have tested negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours before beginning their journey, according to a state executive councillor.

State Local Government, Housing and Health Committee chairman Dr Izani Husin said this ruling came into effect yesterday (July 17).

“The results of their swab tests should be attached with the application they submit to a police station for permission to make interstate travel. However, permission will only be granted for emergency cases as inter-district and interstate travel is still prohibited,” he told Bernama when contacted today.

On Wednesday, the Kelantan government was reported as saying that it had submitted a proposal to the National Security Council to compel individuals planning to travel to Kelantan to first pass a swab test as a measure to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Kelantan Health Department director Datuk Dr Zaini Hussin said health personnel would be stationed at the state’s border entry points to screen travellers who did not manage to undergo the swab test earlier.

“These are people who have obtained permission to make interstate travel to attend to emergency matters but did not have the time to take the COVID-19 test yet.

“We will conduct the screening using the Antigen Rapid Test Kit (RTK-Ag) and the individuals concerned will have to wait about 30 minutes for the results,” he added.

Source: BERNAMA News Agency

107,000 transport sector workers targeted for vaccination by August

About 107,000 frontline workers in the transportation sector are expected to at least receive the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by August.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong said the target covered the three areas of transportation, namely, land, sea and air.

He said among those to be given priority would be the ones working at the airports, ports and Syarikat Prasarana Negara Bhd depots managing the transportation networks like bus and rail.

“However, the number does not include the taxi, e-hailing and p-hailing drivers who will be receiving the vaccine jabs at the the local community vaccine administering centres (PPV).

“We have the list of their names and we will also assist them to get vaccinated fast,” he told reporters after viewing the first-day operation at the Che Ann Khor Integrated PPV in Yong Peng, near here, today.

Wee said that previously, his ministry had discussed with the National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme coordinating minister, Khairy Jamaluddin on vaccinating 250,000 workers and those involved in the transportation sector.

On the Che Ann Khor Integrated PPV, the Ayer Hitam Member of Parliament said it would open for six weeks, focusing on vaccinating residents in the constituency with priority given to senior citizens.

For today’s operation, 998 individuals were expected to receive the COVID-19 vaccine while the full capacity is 2,000 jabs daily.

Source: BERNAMA News Agency

107,000 transport sector workers targeted for vaccination by August

About 107,000 frontline workers in the transportation sector are expected to at least receive the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by August.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong said the target covered the three areas of transportation, namely, land, sea and air.

He said among those to be given priority would be the ones working at the airports, ports and Syarikat Prasarana Negara Bhd depots managing the transportation networks like bus and rail.

“However, the number does not include the taxi, e-hailing and p-hailing drivers who will be receiving the vaccine jabs at the the local community vaccine administering centres (PPV).

“We have the list of their names and we will also assist them to get vaccinated fast,” he told reporters after viewing the first-day operation at the Che Ann Khor Integrated PPV in Yong Peng, near here, today.

Wee said that previously, his ministry had discussed with the National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme coordinating minister, Khairy Jamaluddin on vaccinating 250,000 workers and those involved in the transportation sector.

On the Che Ann Khor Integrated PPV, the Ayer Hitam Member of Parliament said it would open for six weeks, focusing on vaccinating residents in the constituency with priority given to senior citizens.

For today’s operation, 998 individuals were expected to receive the COVID-19 vaccine while the full capacity is 2,000 jabs daily.

Source: BERNAMA News Agency

Fire destroys 23 stilt houses at Kampung Tanjung Aru Baru

Twenty-three stilt houses were destroyed by fire in Kampung Tanjung Aru Baru here today, the third such incident reported in the water village in less than two months.

The Sabah Fire and Rescue Department said no one was injured in the fire, which broke out at about 4.30 am.

“Firemen from the Kota Kinabalu station rushed to the scene about three kilometres away after getting an emergency call at 4.32 am, and they were assisted by their Penampang counterparts to put out the blaze,” it said in a statement.

Five cars and six motorcycles were also destroyed in the fire, which was put out at 8.03 am.

Firemen had difficulty reaching the scene because of the narrow pathways in the village, the statement said. The cause of the fire and loss incurred have yet to be determined.

A fire on May 25 destroyed 33 houses in the village while another blaze on July 6 razed 10 houses.

Source: BERNAMA News Agency

Azizulhasni, Terengganu Health Director receive Datukship

National track cycling ace, Mohd Azizulhasni Awang and five doctors including Terengganu Health Director Dr Nor Azimi Yunus were conferred the Darjah Kebesaran Darjah Dato’ Paduka Mahkota Terengganu (DPMT) which carries the title Datuk.

Dewan Pangkuan Diraja Terengganu secretary Datuk Isa @ Ghazali Endut in a statement today said the conferment of the state awards and medals by the Sultan of Terengganu, Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin, was effective from today.

The other four doctors were Sultanah Nur Zahirah Hospital (HSNZ) Consultant Physician Dr Ahmad Kashfi Ab Rahman; HSNZ Consultant Intensivist, Dr Mohd Ridhwan Mohd Noor; Terengganu Health Deputy- Director Dr Kasemani Embong and Senior Principal Assistant Director/Head of COVID-19 CPRC Room, State Health Office Dr Hasnan Arwit @ Hassan.

The other recipients of the same award were Member of the Board of Trustees of the Sultan Mizan Royal Foundation Azri Sani Mazlan; Hours Intertrade (M) Sdn Bhd Executive Chairman Md Nor Ismail; Member of Terengganu Islamic Affairs and Malay Customs Council Zahari Mohamad Harun and Arup Jururunding Sdn Bhd Managing Director Ir Wan Anuar Wan Endut.

Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Mohd Zuki Ali received the Darjah Kebesaran Seri Setia Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin Terengganu Yang Amat Terpilih (SSMZ), which carries the title Datuk Seri.

The investiture of the Terengganu state awards and medals this year will be held on a date to be determined later.

Source: BERNAMA News Agency

MITI letter ‘rejection’ due to cases of abuse to ‘balik kampung’ – DPM Ismail Sabri

Interstate travel approval letters issued by the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MITI) for business and work purposes was disallowed for four days effective today as certain individuals were found to have abused them to return to their hometowns for the upcoming Aidiladha holiday period.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Yaakob said a similar situation occurred during the Aidilfitri celebrations on May 12, which then triggered 36 COVID-19 clusters.

“I think everyone would have started their holidays today (in conjunction with Aidiladha)… during the last Hari Raya Aidilfitri, hundreds of thousands travelled interstate with various reasons, including using the interstate travel letter meant for work.

“There probably are also those who use their ‘expertise’ to evade the police by travelling through plantation roads and so on, but you can’t deceive COVID-19,” he told reporters after visiting the drive-thru vaccination centre (PPV) at the Jempol district office hall in Bandar Seri Jempol here today.

Ismail Sabri once again reminded the public not to take their chances and try to cross districts or states for the upcoming holidays, and instead take heed from the spike in COVID-19 cases currently.

Inspector-General of Police Datuk Seri Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani in a statement last night said police will not accept documents from the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) as a valid movement permit for the four-day period from July 18-21 for interstate travel.

He said this was following the detection of an increased number of vehicles on the highways over the past few days.

Meanwhile, Ismail Sabri, who is also Defence Minister, said the ministry has yet to receive any application from the Health Ministry (MoH) for more field hospitals to be set up.

However, he added, the Defence Ministry was ready to build four more field hospitals to help contain the COVID-19 pandemic, this after the recruitment of 30 doctors and 100 healthcare workers on contract recently.

He said so far there were six field hospitals established in Pokok Sena, Kedah; Tawau, Sabah; Kapit, Sarawak; Kepala Batas, Penang, Sultanah Aminah Hospital in Johor Bharu and Labuan.

On the programme today, Ismail Sabri said more drive-thru PPVs should be opened in other locations to accelerate the vaccination process in the country.

Source: BERNAMA News Agency