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Political motives lurk below Cingjing land-use debates

Three weeks ago, Interior Minister Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源) held a press conference saying that in two weeks, the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) would identify hostels at Cingjing Farm (清境農場) in Nantou County (南投) located within natural disaster zones.

When asked how the MOI would handle the hostels operating illegally in those dangerous areas, Lee said the government would raze them, stressing that although demolitions would not be carried out immediately, structures located in those designated zones would eventually be flattened.

Two weeks later, Lee held a joint press conference with the Nantou County Government and the Tourism Bureau to announce that the operating permits of seven unregistered Cingjing hostels would be suspended with immediate effect. However, the reason behind the suspension was that the hostels did not hold certified licenses, not because of their location within disaster zones.

Interestingly, when asked the same question, Lee said that “we cannot tear them down recklessly,” noting that since the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) had not officially designated areas susceptible to natural disasters, there was no specific law by which the MOI could handle land overuse issues across the country.

There isn't much the MOI could do but to approach the issue from the angle of operating permits and building regulations, Lee said.

Acting Nantou Magistrate Chen Chi-ching (陳志清) said that current maps which indicate areas prone to natural disasters only show “potentialities,” and noted that classification systems “do not mean these areas will 'definitely' be struck by natural disasters.” The maps can only be used for reference purposes, Chen added.

So, here's the question: if you knew that there's no law regulating overuse of land in Cingjing, why bother to hold two press conferences in two weeks? And why waste time inspecting problems you can't solve in the first place?

Lee once told local press that the Cingjing issue is about politics, although his comments were refuted by Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺), who said that not all issues are political.

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