Taoist ceremony at a nuclear site betrays the ‘spirit of science’

Society & Culture

The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), the country’s most established scientific institution, apologized (in Chinese) on Monday, April 30, for hosting a Taoist ritual at the foundation ceremony for a nuclear power station in Wuwei, Gansu Province. CAS also announced the suspension of two employees who were in attendance but failed to terminate the religious ceremony.

The ritual took place on April 26, when a group of scientists from the CAS-affiliated Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics (SINAP) appeared on the construction site of a new Thorium Molten Salt Reactor (TMSR) Nuclear Energy System. Photos and video clips circulating online show a few people dressed in Taoist clothes standing in front of a small altar covered with sacrificial objects, which were set on fire at the end of the ceremony.

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According to a statement (in Chinese) published by SINAP on April 28, the event was intended to celebrate the launch of the project. While the institution’s employees were not informed of the ritual before their arrival, two of them, He Zhanjun 贺战军 and Cao Yuxiang 曹玉祥, have been suspended from their positions because they “didn’t stop the ceremony from happening.” This led to “a negative impact on society,” said SINAP.

In a Weibo post (in Chinese) published by CAS on Monday, the government-backed institute criticized SINAP for failing in its responsibility to “advance science” and for “betraying the spirit of science.” The country’s top scientific research body also promised to learn lessons from this mistake, saying that it would “further strengthen ideological and political education for the scientists and management staffers working for it.”