The Cabinet yesterday denied accusations that an environmental measure to reduce the burning of incense and joss paper was an attempt to eliminate religious rites, saying that the measures are aimed at reducing air pollution, not interfering with religious freedom.
An Environment Protection Administration (EPA) initiative to reduce the use of incense and “ghost money” to minimize airborne pollutants has given rise to Internet rumors that the government plans to draft a religious associations act and phase out the practice of burning incense.
Dozens of local temples and religious organizations are to protest in front of the Presidential Office Building in Taipei on Sunday to demand the protection of religious traditions.
The Cabinet said that the EPA never intended to eliminate incense or joss paper, but only to encourage their reduced use for environmental reasons.
“It is a misunderstanding. The EPA has never banned incense or ghost money. Never. We only want to reduce the use of firecrackers, ghost money and incense due to environmental reasons,” Executive Yuan spokesman Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇) said.
Showing photographs of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and Premier Lin Chuan (林全) holding incense sticks during the Lunar New Year holiday, Hsu said the government respects and would never attempt to stop religious practice.
Photo: Liu Hsiao-hsin, Taipei Times
The Constitution protects religious freedom and any law limiting this freedom is prohibited, because it would be unconstitutional, Hsu said.
“To live up to their social responsibility, many temples have voluntarily reduced the use of incense, ghost money and firecrackers” without any government orders, Hsu said.
The EPA said the burning of incense and firecrackers produces fine particulate matter containing heavy metals and carcinogenic chemicals, and people exposed to such pollutants often complain of coughing and tearing eyes.
Air quality tests show that the concentration of air pollutants at one temple decreased by two-thirds after it voluntarily reduced the number of incense burners, suggesting that air pollution could be mitigated with reduced use of incense, the EPA said.
At a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) meeting on Wednesday, Tsai said the Cabinet was slow to respond to the rumors.
DPP sources quoted Tsai as saying that the Executive Yuan was passive in explaining the environmental policy, while Minister of the Interior Yeh Jiunn-rong (葉俊榮) failed to promptly quell the rumor that a ban was to be imposed on religious practices.
The president asked the Cabinet to communicate with temples and religious organizations to reduce incense burning without causing misunderstanding.
The quality control of imported incense and ghost paper has to be improved to reduce airborne pollutants, Tsai said.
SOLIDARITY: A group of European lawmakers condemned China’s aggressive moves, while the foreign minister of Lithuania said Taiwan ‘cannot become a second Ukraine’ A German parliamentary delegation would visit Taiwan in the first week of October, German lawmaker Holger Becker on Monday told visiting Democratic Progressive Party legislators Fan Yun (范雲) and Lin I-chin (林宜瑾) at the Bundestag in Berlin. Asked by Fan whether he is worried about possible reprisals from Beijing, such as banning him and his family from entering China, Becker said he is more interested in visiting Taiwan, as “now is the time for democracies to stand together.” Fan and Lin also met with German officials to exchange views on digital education and governance. Investing in digital infrastructure and protecting equal rights to
As China waged extensive military exercises off Taiwan, a group of US defense experts in Washington was focused on their own simulation of an eventual — but for now entirely hypothetical — US-China war over the nation. The unofficial what-if game is being conducted on the fifth floor of an office building not far from the White House, and it posits a US military response to a Chinese invasion in 2026. Even though the participants bring a US perspective, they are finding that a US-Taiwan victory, if there is one, could come at a huge cost. “The results are showing that under
WRONG TIMING: The delegation’s trip has not only disappointed Taiwanese, but could send a wrong message to the global community, Tsai Ing-wen said Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Vice Chairman Andrew Hsia (夏立言) yesterday left with a delegation for a trip to China, drawing fire for visiting at a time when Beijing has been conducting intensive military drills to pressure Taiwan. Before boarding, he told reporters that the delegation would be visiting Taiwanese communities and students in China, and possibly meet with Chinese officials. The Mainland Affairs Council on Tuesday night said that it was not the right time for political party members to visit China, as Beijing has been conducting military exercises since Thursday last week. President Tsai Ing- wen (蔡英文), chairperson of the Democratic
‘MILITARY PLAYBOOK’: It would have taken far longer for the PLA to put together the drills had they actually been in response to Nancy Pelosi’s visit, Joseph Wu said China is using military drills to prepare for an invasion of Taiwan, and its anger over US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit is just an excuse, Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) said yesterday. Speaking in English at a news conference in Taipei, Wu accused China of “gross violations of international law.” “China has used the drills in its military playbook to prepare for the invasion of Taiwan,” he said. “It is conducting large-scale military exercises and missile launches, as well as cyberattacks, disinformation and economic coercion, in an attempt to weaken public morale in Taiwan.” He said the Chinese