Saturday, December 07, 2013

Gov't says it will shut down illegal guesthouses at Qingjing. No, seriously.

Guesthouses just above the last 7-11 at Qingjing.
The movie Beyond Beauty apparently has had some effect in dramatically portraying the destruction of Taiwan's environment. The public was moved. And so the government responded to this social demand by moving against illegal gravel operations illegal farming in the mountains illegal occupation and development of public land pollution by factories deforestation overdevelopment of highways and roads guesthouses.
Only four of the 134 inns and guesthouses in Qingjing are operating legally, the interior ministry said Thursday, vowing to close down any unlicensed lodgings in disaster-prone areas of the popular mountain resort destination in central Taiwan.

There will be "no room for negotiation" over the dismantling of illegal guesthouses in areas of Qingjing with a high risk of disasters as a result of earthquakes and torrential rain, Interior Minister Lee Hong-yuan said at a press conference.

The ministry has identified nearly half of the mountainous 498-hectare scenic area as "high-risk" in a push to reduce overdevelopment, following an increase in public awareness spurred by the hit documentary "Beyond Beauty: Taiwan from Above."
No room for negotiation! Gotta admire the toughness of the Interior Minister, ready to take on tiny powerless family owned businesses at the drop of a hat. The article goes on to say another 80 businesses are the subject of investigation because they occupy public land. Hoo boy. Would it be too cynical to wonder if any of the guesthouses are removed, it will be because some big hotelier wants to put in a resort?

These businesses are not invisible. They did not suddenly appear from an alternate dimension (well, actually they did -- they jumped in from reality to appear in the bureaucratic continuum, briefly, before vanishing back into reality. In Taiwan, problems before the government are like the legendary village of Brigadoon: they appear once every hundred years). These places have been in operation for years with the indifference or active connivance of authorities. Suddenly we're moving on them? Haha.

Anyone who has spent any length of time in Taiwan knows that the following processes of the Scapegoat Cycle will now take place (1) media fanfare with announcement of resolute action (2) a few high profile cases will be prosecuted as scapegoats (3) the others will be ignored and life will go on as usual except for the few unlucky ones until (4) the next time scapegoats are needed.

Well, in fairness, I should add that the government did knock down a bunch of illegal structures in Tayuling on the Hualien side of Hehuanshan. So maybe they might take action....

Meanwhile the real and urgent problems are resolutely ignored and in fact multiplied by government policy. The Taipei Times pointed out:
Executive Yuan Deputy Secretary-General Chien Tai-lang (簡太郎) said on Friday last week that Cabinet ministries and agencies have been divided into five teams to work on 16 major issues highlighted by the film, including illegal gravel and sand mining, the build-up of sediment in reservoirs, land subsidence, excessive hillside development and polluted rivers. The teams were told to present an initial report to Jiang within one month. However, Chien said the government “will take a holistic approach and not just focus on the 16 problems.”

Yet just two weeks earlier, the Cabinet was steaming ahead with its draft for regional development, the “National Regional Plan,” which would relax regulations on land use, allow small-scale industrial parks to be established without an environmental assessment and streamline application and review procedures for major projects. Critics say the proposal would ease restrictions on development in reservoir areas, farmland and active fault zones.
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Anonymous said...

What about that huge illegal 'guest house' near Taidong?

M said...

They guesthouses at Qingjing are hardly "tiny powerless family owned businesses". They are highly lucrative businesseses owned by or operating under the protection of powerful local politicians...

Anonymous said...

If you ever look into Cameron highland in Malaysia
Issue facing there now is a good lesson for qingjing

JerryZ said...

I like your sarcasm, Michael. How convenient to ignore illegal gravel operations, illegal farming in the mountains, illegal occupation and development of public land, general rape of coastal/mountain/tribal land by developers paying bribes and giving kickbacks, pollution by factories, deforestation, over-development of highways and roads.

I wonder if this is a feature of the culture of Chinese and Taiwanese plutocrats, or just general plutocratic behavior.

Wagging the dog while ignoring the big important issues which affect quality of life in Taiwan. How typical.

Anonymous said...

@Jerzy: This happens everywhere all over the world. In general the rich and 'well-connected' grab land belonging to the poor and/or ethnic minorities for its resources.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, those hotels are multi-million dollar operations in Qingjing, not just family guesthouses. Even if there are other problems fixing this problem should also be done.

msd said...

What an incredibly frustrating shame to watch this unfold. For a lack of imagination and wisdom, the government pushes ahead with an "economic development" model that might have been stolen from the American Republican party.

It is a shame because Taiwan has the technology and smarts to craft a model that shows the world what an island must do to balance "growth" with "environmental" limitations in order to preserve and nurture the land for successive generations. This is the kind of economic structural change needed here, and it would actually create a lot of wealth and bolster the democracy.

Instead, govt policy effectively regulates the deregulation of highly rationed resources like land so the "free market" can build housing few can afford; and barrels ahead with "free market" deregulation that will benefit only a very small number.