Youth Corps' land privileges scrapped

The future of the China Youth Corps’ controversial operation of profitable hospitality businesses on state-owned land, which it nominally does to serve young people, has become uncertain after Minister of Education Pan Wen-chung (潘文忠) yesterday rescinded a so-called “phantom law” that has allowed the corps to run such businesses.

For years, the corps has made sizable profits from the operation of 12 youth activity centers close to popular tourist destinations and the Kuan Run Youth Hostel in Hualian County — most of which stand on state-owned land — bypassing the Tourism Bureau’s Regulations for the Administration of Hotel Enterprises (旅館業管理規則).

Such privileges were ensured by the Guidelines on Ensuring the Safety and Maintaining Accommodation Facilities at the Youth Activity Center (青年活動中心住宿設施管理及安全維護辦法), a tailor-made law for the corps promulgated in 2014 by former president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration.

Representatives of the corps reportedly twice joined in the process of drawing up the guidelines.

Founded in 1952 after the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) central reform committee passed a resolution to “depose Chinese communists and resist Soviet Union forces,” the corps was known as the China Youth Anti-Communist National Salvation Corps until 2000.

It was directed by former president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) for 21 years before he was succeeded by other KMT heavyweights.

According to the education ministry’s Youth Development Administration, the guidelines’ enabling statute — Item 3, Article 24 of the Act for the Development of Tourism (發展觀光條例) — was already deleted in 2015, rendering it a “phantom law.”

“That is why we moved to publish an announcement of the guidelines’ pending rescission in accordance with the Central Regulation Standard Act (中央法規標準法),” the Youth Development Administration said, adding that the law’s official revocation is expected to take place within 60 days at the earliest.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lai Jui-lung (賴瑞隆) yesterday said that the corps was the only civil organization that enjoyed a tailor-made law, which allowed it to make nearly NT$2.9 billion (US$98.2 million) in profits annually from the youth activity centers.

Lai said the activity centers have a combined 880 rooms, with the Chientan Youth Activity Center in Taipei’s Shilin District (士林) and the Kenting Youth Activity Center in Pintung County’s Hengchun Township (恆春) being able to accommodate 920 and 360 guests, respectively.

“Their scale is on par with five-star hotels,” Lai added.

Lai said the ministry last year tried to find legal grounds to allow the corps to continue running its hospitality businesses, but came to realize that the matter “was forced upon it” and that hotel management was never within its expertise.

Last year, Lai said that the Ma administration issued an order demanding that the education ministry become the centers’ governing body, as the accommodations are designated “youth” activity centers.

“By putting the activity centers back under the supervision of the Tourism Bureau, we can finally put an end to this privileged treatment that had its origins in the past party-state system,” Lai said.

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