Religious leaders incensed over rumored incense ban

The restriction of burning incense was not meant to limit the practice of religious freedom: Cabinet spokesman

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Government-imposed restrictions on burning incense and joss paper is an initial endeavor to protect the environment but will not interfere with the practice of religious freedom, according to the Cabinet spokesman.

The plan of the Environment Protection Administration (EPA) to reduce the use of incense and joss paper to prevent the increase of air pollution has brought up dissatisfaction from some religious practitioners who protested in front of the Presidential Office Building in Taipei on Sunday to protect their religious traditions.

They claimed a number of airborne pollutants eliminated by burning incense are unsubstantial compared to industrial pollutants, according to the practitioners of Yunlin Beigang Community. Recent rumors of the government putting a complete ban on the religious use of incense has created rising concern among religious organizations.

In a meeting with reporters yesterday, Executive Yuan spokesman Hsu Kuo-yung presented the photos with President Tsai Ing-wen and Premiere Lin Chuan both holding incense and worshiping at a temple at the beginning of this year and implied that "It is a misunderstanding and EPA never wants to ban any practice of religion."

He said that any law to limit the acts of religious freedom is prohibited and the government pursuit is to cut down the toxic chemicals produced by burning incense and leading to the complaints from people coughing and suffering irritated eyes.

At the meeting, President Tsai also blamed the cabinet for its late response to the rumors and said that the control of incense burning is an essential act to improve the air quality.