Sun, Feb 21, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Police restrict festival on ‘terrorist concerns’

Staff writer, with CNA

Firecrackers are set off around the man posing as Master Handan at the annual Bombing of Master Handan ceremony in Taitung on Tuesday.

Photo: CNA

Police in Taitung County have asked people in the county to scale back activities to celebrate the Lantern Festival, saying they were concerned about a possible terrorist attack, without citing any evidence.

Saying that Taiwan cannot be free from terrorist attacks, Lei Wu-chun (雷武君), the chief of the Taitung Precinct of the Taitung County Police Bureau, has asked stores to not set up provisional altars to greet deities from local temples making their rounds during Lantern Day celebrations.

He said crowds of people gather around provisional altars as deities are paraded around, and the noise created by firecrackers is indistinguishable from gun shots, leading police to decide to ban the use of provisional altars.

The police and Tian Ho Temple (天后宮) have placed several other restrictions on the annual rite, resulting in only 54 temples sending deities and accompanying performance teams making the rounds, a record low.

Lei said Taiwan ranked 113th in last year’s Institute for Economics and Peace’s Global Terrorist Index, showing that it is not free from the risk of a terrorist attack.

“This is why police have to manage the risks of the celebrations and mitigate the risks of a terrorist attack,” he said.

Taiwan had a score 0.153 on a 0-10 scale in the index, with 10 indicating the highest likelihood of terrorism.

Tian Ho Temple head Lin You-te (林有德) said the Bombing of Master Handan (炸寒單) — throwing firecrackers at men representing the mythical figure Handan — and the deities making their rounds during the Lantern Festival are distinctive Taitung features, and should be recognized by the Ministry of Culture as a cultural assets worth preserving.

The tradition of deities being paraded around the county during the Lantern Festival is being put back in the hands of Tian Ho Temple in Taitung City after having been organized in recent years by the county government.

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