Only when the government takes off its mask can Taiwan move forward on human rights
The Review Meeting of the ROC’s 2nd Report Under the ICCPR & ICESCR was held at the Evergreen International Convention Center on Jan. 16-18, 2017.
The Review Meeting of the ROC’s 2nd Report Under the ICCPR & ICESCR was held at the Evergreen International Convention Center on Jan. 16-18, 2017. Compared to the first review meeting 4 years ago, more NGOs participated this time and were better prepared. However, the representatives of the government agencies' complacent attitude made the public feel skeptical about the government's determination and capabilities to implement human rights protection.
This was the second time that a review meeting was held, and Taiwan has adopted the two international covenants for over 7 years. The Legislative Yuan has passed the “Act to Implement the ICCPR and the ICESCR” and made them domestic laws. However, although the preliminary planning for the crucially important “Independent National Human Rights Committee” was completed in July 2014, there still lacks leadership at the national level. Related government agencies have failed to coordinate with one another. Therefore, little progress has been made on the implementation of the two covenants.
Sung-Li Huang, convener of Covenants Watch, said that many judges are not clear about the weight of authority the two covenants carry in Taiwan. The chief judge of the Supreme Administrative Court and the Conference of Judges in August 2014 even made a misleading interpretation: "Unless there is an explicit provision in the two covenants that requires the government to implement it, no request can be submitted based on it." This has misled the application of the two covenants and also denies the application of the ICESCR in courts. He suggests to amend the laws and make the two covenants carry the same weight of authority as the constitution to solve the fundamental problems.
Yi-Hsiang Shi, Deputy Secretary-General of Taiwan Association for Human Rights, mentioned that he was very disappointed about the responses of the government agencies in these two days. Many of the government agencies’ statements are not true. For example, the representative of the Ministry of Labor said that foreign laborers in Taiwan enjoy the same level of human rights protection as those of Taiwanese. Ming-Tang Chen, Minister of Justice, also said that there is no corporal punishment in Taiwan’s prisons. Shi said that in this review meeting, the government should have presented the facts so that the experts could provide more suggestions tailored to Taiwan's actual needs, and that would also allow the government to reflect on its human rights policies. However, since 2013, the government has still intended to cover up the ugly truth through lies. Shi said, “We feel extremely frustrated.”
The representatives of the Association of World Citizens in Taiwan mentioned the lack of respect for taxpayers’ human rights in Taiwan and raised several major issues of tax disputes:
1. Regarding tax disputes, even when a taxpayer has won his/her case multiple times in the administrative courts, the courts would still send the case back to the taxation bureau for it to make another tax disposition. The taxation bureau would also impose a travel ban on the taxpayer. This violates Article 10 of the Constitution, which stipulates that everyone has the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence. That is also against Articles 11 and 12 of the ICCPR: “No one shall be imprisoned merely on the ground of inability to fulfill a contractual obligation.” Statistics shows that in 2015, there were 6.53 million cases of owing taxes or dues pending for forced execution. The total number of households in Taiwan is around 8.47 million. That means about three quarters of the households are owing taxes or dues. The 20-year-long Tai Ji Men tax case is the most typical example of this. It's apparent that Taiwan's government seriously violates its people's human rights that are protected under the two covenants.
2. A prosecutor indicted Tai Ji Men based on false evidence, and the taxation bureau simply used the documents transferred from the prosecutor’s office, which were merely statements to be verified in a court of law, to determine the amount and nature of the income of Tai Ji Men's grandmaster and then imposed heavy penalties on him without actually investigating the matter. Absurdly enough, the tax agents even got bonuses for handling the case.
3. The Petitions and Appeals Committee of the Ministry of Finance and the Administrative Courts have canceled the taxation bureau's tax demand on Tai Ji Men for 17 times, but the taxation bureau continued to issue the 18th tax demand. This is the so-called "never-ending tax bill." According to research, the winning rate for people in administrative courts is only around 6%. Even when a taxpayer wins his/her case in an administrative court, the case would get transferred back to the taxation bureau for it to issue another tax bill.
4. The taxation bureau would directly seize a taxpayer's property and impose a travel ban on him/her without the court's order. Although the representative of the Ministry of Finance mentioned that the related law has been amended, in fact, currently the taxation bureau still has the authority to directly seize a taxpayer's property and impose a travel ban on him/her without the court's order. After 10 years and 7 months of detailed investigation in the three-tiered courts, the court of the third instance confirmed that all of the defendants in the Tai Ji Men case were not guilty of tax evasion or violation of the Tax Collection Act, and the nature of the red envelopes was determined to be gifts and therefore tax-exempt. However, the taxation bureau completely ignores the criminal court's order and continues to issue tax bills to Tai Ji Men.
5. The taxation bureau has never replied to Tai Ji Men why the monetary gifts were treated as tuition of a cram school and how the tax amount was computed.
6. Yao-Yuan Wen, former High Court judge and the presiding judge of the court of the second instance in the Tai Ji Men criminal case, pointed out that regarding the charge of fraud brought by the prosecutor, the court had thoroughly investigated the matter and found Tai Ji Men not guilty of the charge. Regarding the charge of violation of the Tax Collection Act, the court had thoroughly investigated the matter and found Tai Ji Men not guilty of the charge either as the red envelopes the defendant received were gifts and there was no tax evasion. He felt it is very regrettable that the Tai Ji Men tax case is still not resolved today. He thinks it is outrageous that the taxation bureau didn't base their tax disposition on the final ruling of the three-tiered courts but instead on the prosecutor's bill of indictment, which the courts had found to be unreliable. He stressed that the government should not allow the taxation bureau to continue to repeatedly issue unjustified tax bills to Tai Ji Men and that the government cannot continuously use the state power to rob the taxpayers of their personal property.
The representatives of the Association of World Citizens in Taiwan presented to each committee member of the review meeting three books: “Revelation,” “The Truth,” and “End It from Where It Started,” considered by experts and scholars as books that reflect the most typical judicial and tax problems in Taiwan. They hoped that the committee members, through reading the books, would see many human rights violations committed by Taiwan's government and provide suggestions for Taiwan to move forward on taxpayers' human rights and enable its people to truly enjoy human rights.