Apple Daily: Why Tzu Chi is sparking resentment


The Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation (??????? ) has drawn negative attention from its land development project in Neihu District in Taipei. The criticism has largely targeted the culture of the charity group rather than its founder Cheng Yen (??), a nun. The religious organization is being taken to task in part for being secular and engaged in a wide range of worldly activities. But it has also been attacked for several other reasons, as follows: First, the foundation stands outside the law. Taiwan's vague regulations governing religious activities have no provisions for taxation or government supervision. Secondly, Tzu Chi is the country's biggest owner of private land and has assets totaling over NT$100 billion (US$3.18 billion), but it has been very secretive about its finances. Its financial statement is less than a page long and has not been certified by a public account, giving the impression of an arrogant attitude. Third, it has never modernized its charitable endeavors, and the management of its finances lacks transparency. Fourth, Tzu Chi has replaced the government in many fields because of its wide-ranging relief efforts, making the government lazy. Fifth, the secular side of Tzu Chi manifests snobbishness, unfairness, and an unbridled pursuit of profits. Sixth, despite being a Buddhist group, Tzu Chi has been far more successful at fundraising and charity than at promoting Buddhist teachings and doctrines. Finally, Tzu Chi's land development projects have often been environmentally unfriendly, drawing protests and resentment from local residents. It is shameful that the Ministry of the Interior has failed to check if Tzu Chi is a legal organization and audit its operations and that the Ministry of Finance has not imposed taxes on it. The country's presidents and ranking officials have been so proud of having met Cheng Yen that they forgot about fulfilling their duties. That Buddhism is prospering in Taiwan is a good thing, but such a religion should be modest and obey the law. (Editorial abstract -- March 6, 2015) (By Elizabeth Hsu)