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Cingjing hostels can't be razed 'recklessly': MOI

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Interior Minister Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源) said yesterday that the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) has tried to find the best solution to the Cingjing Farm (清境農場) land over-use issue in accordance with current laws, noting that the hostels at Cingjing cannot be razed “recklessly.”

Lee's remarks come after the MOI ordered closure on Wednesday of seven unregistered hostels at Cingjing Farm. Local commentators criticized the MOI for not keeping its previous promise to demolish all illegal hostels located within area susceptible to natural disasters.

The Nantou County Government (南投縣) sent official notices yesterday to the seven Cingjing hostels demanding that they close their businesses immediately.

Despite the enacting of The Geology Act three years ago, the Central Geological Survey under the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) has not identified areas across the nation that are susceptible for natural disasters.

Lee said in light of this, even though the MOI holds maps of potential natural disaster areas that symbolize the growing attention to potential disasters in Taiwan, without the MOEA's official announcement, the MOI has no law to act in accordance with in terms of handling the Cingjing issue.

Lee went on to say that if the MOEA identifies areas that are susceptible to natural disasters, then the MOI can handle land over-use issues with a different approach. However, he added that he respects the MOEA's right to decide whether or not to make the information to public.

The Cingjing hostels currently can only be regulated under the Building Act and relevant regulations for hostel facilities, Lee said, noting that demolishing a hostel has to be done in accordance with the law. He added that if the government razes it recklessly, it might have to face state compensation issue.

Lee was quoted by Apple Daily saying that not just Cingjing Farm has a land over-utilization issue: many places in Taiwan also face the same problem, but, the way the MOI handled the Cingjing issue cannot be a standard for the other places, or “there will be fire all over Taiwan.”

The MOI will not and cannot proactively pick a place to match maps of potential natural disasters with the local area's map, Lee said, noting that the local governments can identify certain potential hazardous areas by the same method the MOI uses.

Unregistered Hostels Should be Closed: Lee

Many Cingjing hostel operators urged the government to announce a nationwide “scientific standard” in terms of handling land over-utilization issue in order to convince them why they should shut down their business.

In response, Lee said the government had a unified standard to deal with mountainous land utilization, noting that if a hostel is operating without holding an official hostel license, then it should be closed. Lee added that the operators' argument is flimsy.

Lee suggested the Cingjing hostel operators should talk with the Nantou County Government and meet the standards for legalizing their hostels.

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The Lohasstay hostel is seen atop Cingjing Farm in Ren-ai Township, Nantou County. Hostels such as Lohasstay have been asked to cease operations after being found to have violated construction regulations. (CNA)

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