Julian Lin and Taiwan Civil Government supporters in March 2021 for a Taoyaun District Court appearance where Lin and others face fraud charges from Republic of China in-exile prosecutors. (credit: Taiwan Civil Government)
The long-running trial of leaders of Taiwan Civil Government, an advocacy group, for allegedly defrauding its members with false claims about the benefits of the TCG identity card and support from the United States was to have concluded in late May. However, the recent Covid virus surge in Taiwan has led to yet one more continuance in the two-year long trial. There is no jury in the marathon proceeding as the Republic of China in-exile does not permit jury trials.
During the course of the lengthy trial the chief defendant Roger Lin died and the TCG headquarters was demolished under order for code violations. Group members have been repeatedly interrogated and TCG parades are closely monitored and filmed by police. The reason for the unfriendly attention TCG has brought to itself is the group goal of expelling the ROC from Taiwan with assistance from the United States. At the core of it all lies Taiwan’s unresolved sovereignty since the end of World War II.
The United States installed the Republic of China on Taiwan, then called Formosa, in October 1945 as an occupation government. Abuses by ROC against the Formosans resulted in the island’s sovereignty away from Japan to be put on hold at the San Francisco Peace Treaty which formally ended the war. The unresolved status has lasted seven decades and the ongoing “strategic ambiguity” has left everyone confused.
Roger and Julian Lin sued both the exiled Republic of China and the United States in the District of Columbia U. S. District Court to force the repeal of the ROC “Nationality Act” which stripped Formosans of their Japanese citizenship. The case was dismissed for not having been filed a half-century earlier and not including Japan as a defendant. However, Roger & Julian Lin vs. Republic of China & United States of America put the couple in the cross-hairs of the ROC Ministry of Justice.
The election of Donald Trump presented TCG with a new administration to lobby for American help to rid Taiwan of the ROC. The group began pouring millions of dollars into its campaign in an attempt to win over President Trump. TCG funded an inauguration party, hosted receptions, bought an expensive advertising campaign, courted think-tanks, underwrote a Heritage Foundation reception and event for Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, picked up the bill for several POLITICO events, and dropped money on Roll Call Live. TCG members volunteered for delegation trips to Washington, New York, Zurich, and Japan. Much of the money was funneled through lobbyist Neil Hare and his company Global Vision Communications.
Julian Lin, wife of TCG founder Roger Lin, became the public face of the organization in America and led the junkets. Hare helped Lin score a private chat session with Trump’s counselor Kellyanne Conway. However, hours after announcements about the Heritage Foundation event were sent out ROC prosecutors decided to act. Quickly a raid was planned for TCG headquarters and homes of the leaders. The news media was alerted just prior to the May 10, 2018 raid. Roger and Julian Lin were paraded in handcuffs and held incommunicado without bail for five months.
The destruction of the TCG headquarters ended the group’s overnight training classes and was a severe morale blow to members. Interrogations and surveillance took its toll on membership, claimed by Hare to be 70,000. The trial itself, an endless series of hearings and continuances, has burdened the faithful.
The October 2019 death of Roger Lin, in the middle of the trial, unraveled TCG and factions formed. One faction led by Gavin Tsai had previously split and began calling itself Taiwan Government. Julian Lin, as the widow, picked up her husband’s mantle and claims her faction is the legitimate TCG. Tsai Tsai-yuan, a co-defendant, split with Julian and heads a reform faction called TCG 3.0 and keeps the trademark black suit as uniform. Tsai, a former political prisoner at the infamous Green Island Prison, now faults Julian for group woes. Both Tsai and Lin face prison if convicted.
The trial, which has brought in witnesses a few at a time, scheduled four days at the end of May to hear statements from over 1,000 purported victims. Allegedly there were over 1,300 victims, however many of them deny being victims and remain loyal supporters still donating money. Court records show statements were received from over five hundred witnesses. Some witnesses had purchased the identity card while others had attended TCG training classes held at headquarters.
Julian Lin maintains that witness statements were obtained by fear of prosecution as witnesses had first been interrogated as victims. “The judge hinted to the defense in advance, explaining that we are currently split into several different groups with different positions, and may arrange for riot police to be there.”
“The witnesses so far have not said I gave orders, got money from them, or ever cheated a member.”
Julian did concede some witnesses said she claimed TCG was authorized by the United States Military Government. Lin says the answer was given to a question fabricated by the prosecutor. “Usually the prosecutor asked the witness, “Did the TCG personnel tell you that they are authorized by the US military government?”
“Most witness don’t understand the question,but have to answer yes or no.”
Then prosecutors would ask, “What role does Julian hold in it?”
Witness: “Roger also listen to her, she made decision for everything.”
When the defense attorney would ask for an example, “All the witness answer, “It is said that….”
Julian concluded, “Some of victims think can get money from me and listen to investigators….but until now no one said I gave order.”
Two Roger Lin lawsuits have been filed in Washington with Julian being a co-plaintiff in the second case. The first Lin lawsuit against the United States sought American passports for Taiwan residents. A sympathetic court declined to rule stating it was a political issue not a legal matter as the court lacked authority over foreign policy. However, the court described Taiwan’s long unresolved history as “political purgatory” and the people as stateless. Julian Lin and Tsai Tai-yuan both can give personal testimony to what that purgatory feels like as they await their fate over claims that TCG founder Roger Lin made before his death.