Two employees of a science institute have been fired and placed under investigation in China after a Taoist ritual was performed during a construction groundbreaking ceremony in Gansu province.
The ritual to rid the site of evil took place at the construction site of the Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics’ experimental thorium reactor in Wuwei, Gansu province, on 26 April, reports South China Morning Post.
The institute is part of the state research body, the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Officially atheist, China’s ruling Communist Party closely monitors religious activity.
The ceremony came to light after photos and footage were posted online showing a man dressed as a Taoist priest "ridding the site of evil" at a table laden with sacrificial offerings.
Public criticism followed, prompting two apologies for the ritual.
In a statement on Monday, the institute said two employees had been fired and subjected to party disciplinary procedures.
Neither employee had taken part in the ritual, but they had failed to stop it, the statement said.
"This activity has created a negative influence on society. We recognise our mistake, and hereby express our deep apologies to our colleagues in society," the institute said.
According to the Post, city and county officials called in the construction company for meetings after the incident.
The deputy director of the management committee of the industrial district, and seven other public officials who attended the ceremony were subjected to government disciplinary action.
Image: Sometimes allowed: Taoist ritual at the Xiao ancestral temple of Chaoyang, Shantou, China in 2010 (Wikimedia Commons)