Chinese Law & Religion Monitor, Vol. 8. No. 1 -- June 2012

Friday, July 27, 2012

China Aid Association, July 27, 2012
Chinese Law & Religion Monitor  by ChinaAid

January – June 2012   Vol. 8, No. 1

Editor’s Note
By “Bob” Xiqiu Fu
In the first half of 2012, China’s political landscape was rocked when the head of the Chongqing Public Security Bureau fled to and hid in the U.S. consulate, triggering an intense high-level power struggle that, to date, has yet to be concluded. There was also the miraculous flight to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing by Chen Guangcheng, the blind activist and lawyer who has long been defending the rights of victims of China’s forced one-child family planning policy, from his imprisonment in his village in Shandong province (Dongshigu village, in Yinan county, Linyi region) for a year and a half. Then, with the help of ChinaAid and other international groups and individuals, he came to the United States. The whole drama captured the world’s attention and was another blow to China’s political realm. At the same time, the situation for human rights, the rule of law and religious freedom has not improved. A large number of activists and political dissidents continue to be persecuted, and serious clashes between the government and the people have erupted because of group protests in many places. Faced with the drama of such explosive plots, the international community doesn’t know what to make of “Chinese characteristics” and waits apprehensively for the emergence of the new power arrangements in the government following the Communist Party’s 18th Congress.

This Spring/Summer 2012 volume of Chinese Law and Religion Monitor contains five papers that touch on religion in Chinese society, laws and regulations on religion, Japan’s management of religion, the government’s counter-measures against house churches, and the Christian view of constitutionalism. These papers seek to explore the relationship between religion in China and the rule of law and separation of church and state.

1. The well-known Chinese-American sociologist Yang Fenggang in his “Religious revival and religious deficit in China today” explores the social phenomenon of a religious revival in China in the past 20 years. But religious studies and management have not been able to keep up with the times, resulting in a shortage [of religious options] and even leading to the flourishing of witchcraft. The author also believes that religious faith is a sacred symbol in society and furthermore that it is faith in a deity. As such, it will not disappear.

2. Tian Feilong, a PhD candidate at the Beijing University School of Law, in his “Analysis of the shortcomings in China’s legal code on religion and an exploration of the path to the rule of law in religion” clearly points out and expounds on the shortcomings in China’s system of laws on religion: structural and content shortcomings in the clauses in the Constitution about religion, and the administrative management model determined by the “Regulations on Religious Affairs” that have led to “regulatory restrictions” or “regulatory discrimination.” The author also endorses the proposal that “legalization” should be the model for the rule of law in religion.

3. People’s University professor Zhang Wenliang in his paper “Japan’s law on religion and management of religion” analyzes Japan’s post-World War II law on religion, which is based on the principle of separation of church and state. Japan’s religious management embodies the principles of democracy and equality. Both of these factors have resulted in great growth in religion in post-WWII Japan. But the emphasis on self-management by religious groups and the emphasis on preventing government power from intervening in the internal affairs of religion have resulted in weak government supervision of religious affairs, leading to the emergence of the Aum Shinrikyo cult, which brought harm to society.

4. Yang Kaile, an expert on the relationship between the house church and the government, in his “Basic principles for managing privately set-up Christian meeting sites” explains the approach used by the Chinese government in recent years of “register some, combine some, transition some and ban some” in carrying out the “Plans on managing privately set-up Christian meeting sites according to the law”. The goal of these plans is “to abolish privately set-up Christian meeting sites and restrain the free evangelistic activities of self-commissioned evangelists,” but this has never been achieved. Therefore, the paper makes these four recommendations [to the government]: reform the system of religious management, protect the legal rights and interests of house churches, adopt a service-oriented mentality, and cooperate with house churches on co-management.

5. Wang Yi, pastor of the Autumn Rain House Church in Chengdu [Sichuan province] points out in his paper “The possibility of political theology: Christianity and Liberalism” that the wave of liberalism in China is starting to draw near to the Christian spirit, mainly it is a drawing near to religious conservatism and a search for a basis for rationality outside the framework of constitutionalism. Wang Yi believes that the constraints of constitutionalism are expressed in the restraints of the system, and religion’s transcendent values need to be introduced into the system’s framework, from which a new, complex church-state relationship can be formed. The covenant theory of Christianity (including the view that all men are created equal) is a kind of transcendent value system that is able to constrain a constitutional system. This is the proposition of political theology.

To sum up, the central theme of the first four papers above is the importance of the relationship between the [government’s] system for managing religions and the Constitution. China’s system for managing religions, especially for managing house churches, has serious limitations and needs to be reformed. The last paper explores the influence and norms of religious values on constitutionalism, which can become the principle for holistic political values and from which a transcendent justification for a constitutional system can be derived.

The long-term wrestling match that started in April 2011 between Beijing Shouwang Church and the government is still ongoing. The rights defense movement in the Christian church is an enduring one, which not only promotes the government’s trend of being more law-abiding in its management of religious affairs, but also offers to the church, especially the house church, a new proposition: how to bring innovation to the church administration model while complying with Biblical principles and the traditional principles of the universal church?

ChinaAid will continue to make every effort to promote improvements in religious freedom, human rights and the rule of law within the borders of China. To effectively promote the healthy development of China's civil society, the united efforts of churches at home and abroad and the forces of justice everywhere are needed, as is both theoretical exploration as well as practical experience.

Editor-in-Chief:  Rev. Dr. Bob Fu, founder and president of China Aid Association

Table of Contents
Editor's Note, by Bob Xiqiu Fu .....3
Religious revival and religious deficit in China today, by Yang Fenggang .....8
Analysis of the shortcomings in China's legal code an religion and an exploration of the path to the rule of law in religion, by Tian Feilong .....26
Japan's law on religion and management of religion, by Zhang Wenliang .....48
Basic principles for managing privately set-up Christian meeting sites, by Yang Kaile .....77
The possibility of political theology: Christianity and Liberalism, by Wang Yi .....96
1. Photocopy of Penalty Decision (Xinjiang Province) .....119
2. Photocopy of Criminal Detention Notice (Henan Province) .....120
3. Photocopy of Arrest Notice (Henan Province) ..... 121

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