Revelation of the Review of the International Two Covenants
The review meeting on Taiwan's compliance with the two international covenants which is highly emphasized by the President Ma's administration has concluded on February 27 after many rounds of dialogues between international human rights experts, government agencies and various NGOs. Closed meetings and discussions among human rights experts are scheduled on the 28th to formulate concluding remarks. A formal press conference will be held on March 1 to present advices to the government.
In the review meetings in the past 3 days, human rights experts have raised many human rights issues concerning death penalty, tortures in prisons, travel bans, indigenous people, foreign spouses and labors, physically challenged people and mentally-retarded, personal data protection and domestic violence. Government agencies are well-prepared and able to tell experts the practices of human rights protections in Taiwan. International experts speak highly of the intentions and determinations of the government to achieve higher standards of human rights protection. However, experts also pointed out that in some cases, there is a huge disparity between what they have heard from NGOs and the statements from the government.
NGOs took advantage of the rare opportunity to speak with the international experts about the issues and difficulties they have been following closely but ignored by the government and the many violations of human rights by the government with administrative powers. However NGO representatives were upset and frustrated by the government officers citing misleading information, biased statistics and rules and regulations pending for revisions to create the image of sound human rights protections.
NGO representatives question government officers hiding truth to the international experts. The more than 50,000 travel bans seem to be relatively high than other countries and cause experts' attentions. Government officers replied that more than 30,000 travel bans are due to criminal investigations. The remaining 15,000 or so cases are tax disputes and the civilians can apply for administrative remedy through legal petitions in administrative court. However, according to study by a local law professor, Huang Shi-Chou, taxpayers have never won a single case in the administrative court for revoking the travel ban. In addition, tax disputes account for about 60% of cases in the administrative court and the odds of taxpayers wining cases are extremely low, less than 10%. That's why the administrative court has long been joked as the court of losing cases. The replies from officers in ministry of finance are nothing but truth-hiding.
The defense counsel, Chiang Rei-Chin, also voiced her complaints for government officers citing the ruling of administrative court to demand tax payments from Tai Ji Men. According to attorney Chiang, Tai Ji Men was charged by prosecutor Ho Kuan-Ren for fraud, tax evasions and violations of tax codes with untruthful evidences. The case was ruled not guilty both in the first and second trials. The supreme court verdict came out on July 13, 2007 with not guilty ruling. The ruling also confirmed that the aggregate ordering of uniforms is not a business transaction and the monetary gift from dizi (follower) to zhang-men-ren (master) is voluntary giving in nature. The master, as per tax laws, does not have to pay taxes on the gift. The criminal ruling was reached after debates and investigations over 10 years and 7 months in the court of law. In the seminar “Taxpayer's human rights from the perspectives of two covenants” on February 24, professor Huang Chun Jie, member on the presidential council on human rights, indicated “Administrative agencies tend to distort, mis-interpret the laws. What is even worse, they do not have a clear understanding on the two covenants. For example, since ministry of education has already declared that Tai Ji Men is not a cram school, then there should be no business taxes for a profit-seeking cram school. The tax agents should instead try to assess gift taxes on the giver of gift, instead of collecting income taxes from the receiver of the gifts.” Attorney Chiang commented that the violations of taxpayer ' s rights are very common in Taiwan. Tai Ji Men is not the only case. There are tens of thousands of individuals and families suffering from similar violations of human rights. The international experts should pay close attentions to the violations of human rights by the government power to tax so as to help innocent civilians end their pains and sufferings.