Chinese Law & Religion Monitor Vol. 8, No. 2; July – December 2012

Monday, March 18, 2013

China Aid Association; March 18, 2013CAA Journal 2012-07-12[2]

Chinese Law & Religion Monitor
  by ChinaAid

July – December 2012; Vol. 8, No. 2

Editor’s Note
By “Bob” Xiqiu Fu

In the second half of 2012, the downfall of the daring leftist vanguard Bo Xilai and the fiasco of the “Chongqing Model” he championed triggered a fierce internal power struggle among the top leadership of the Chinese Communist Party before its 18th National Congress.  The opening of the congress was pushed back to early November, and on the whole, it was a smooth transition.  A new central leadership team with Xi Jinping at the core was produced, while the leftist conservative faction led by Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao are now out of the picture. In this context, due to strong dissatisfaction with the all-around decline of the rule of law and worsening human rights conditions in China in the past decade and with new hope for the new leadership team, calls from the Chinese people for citizenship rights, constitutional government and the rule of law have been growing louder and emotions are running high.  A week before these events, the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a Mormon, lost the election, and President Barack Obama, a Democrat, won a second term.

The 2012 Fall-Winter issue of Chinese Law and Religion Monitor contains five papers exploring the subjects of religion and law, citizenship rights, and church-state relations in China.  These papers are about China’s religious regulations and management of religion, Christianity’s advancement of constitutional government and civil society, the influences of marginalized Mormonism on American politics, church-state relations in the Chinese tradition vis-a-vis Confucianism, Buddhism and Daoism, the early British constitutional government-citizenship society, church-state relations, and classical theories of religious tolerance.  Also included in this issue are official documents related to churches and Christians that were persecuted by the government.

1. In “Regulating Religion Under Communism,” prominent Chinese-American sociologist Yang Fenggang explores and summarizes the Communist government’s restrictive policy, regulations and approach in regulating religion since the founding of Communist China in 1949.  Generally speaking, this religious policy and these regulations were designed for the totalitarian society and centrally planned economy of the 1950s, and they have remained basically unchanged to this day and have remained ideology-driven.  Hence, they are already seriously outdated, and are not only ineffective in managing religion, but also have become an obstacle in China’s modernization and its activities on the global stage.

2. In “Christianity and Civil Society in China,” Chinese house church scholar Shan Chuanhang explores and demonstrates how Christianity has transformed citizenship rights and church-state relations in China, mainly through invisible and unstructured church communities.  Through a church community culture based on “justice- and love-centered Christian ethics,” churches and Christians have held fast to their faith ideology and application principles, have never given up meeting and worshiping together, have promoted the model of using the law to defend their rights, and are influencing the church as well as society as a whole.  This model has promoted the development of civil society in China and facilitated the birth of a new mode of church-state relations.  To sum up, Christianity’s “new culture movement” is the vehicle by which the model of a constitutional civil society and church-state relations, a systemic and cultural asset from the West, is being contextualized in China in a positive way that will avoid the situation that exists in the modern Western model of a civil society from which a code of ethics is absent.

3. In “From Marginalization to Mainstream: State regulation and the Evolution of Mormonism,” sociology professor Lu Yunfeng of Beijing University uses the experience of the Mormon Church’s abandonment of polygamy to explore the role of government regulation in the evolution of religious sects.  The author argues that it was pressure from the federal government that compelled the Mormon Church to take the initiative in reducing the tension in its relationship with society; that is, the federal government used a series of legal moves to force Mormons to give up the practice of polygamy.  The patience, restraint and moderate pressure of the U.S. government and the timely compromise made by Mormons averted an escalation of conflict and gradually reduced the level of controversy about Mormonism, making it acceptable to mainstream American society.

4. In “A Look at the Characteristics of Church-State relations in the Chinese Tradition from the Perspectives of the ‘Three Religions’—Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism,” Professor Yang Jun at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences of the University of Electronic Science and Technology (Chengdu) points out that many religions coexisted in the history of the Han Chinese people and that the three religions of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism had a particularly close relationship with national politics.  Confucianism was the orthodox ideology of the feudal society, Taoism was indigenous to China, while Buddhism was a foreign culture that became Sinicized.  Their political role was to be the ideological superstructure, and in that, they played a unique and important role and formed a political and cultural structure in Chinese feudal society in which Confucianism was dominant while Buddhism and Taoism were complementary.

5. In “A letter Concerning Toleration,” English Christian ethicist John Locke, the philosophical and theoretical founder of the Western world’s constitutional government-civil society, provided a basic theoretical model for the modern constitutional government-civil society.  In this classic, he cites Biblical teachings as the basis for his theory, and expounds on the concept of nation: people who have formed a society solely for the purpose of seeking, defending and advancing their own interests as citizens.  Government is responsible for applying fair laws with impartiality and justice, protecting citizens’ rights and punishing those who violate the rights of others, while citizens enjoy basic rights including life, liberty, happiness and property. The relationship of the church’s authority, obligations, and responsibility to show tolerance and church-state relations is that the full extent the civil government’s authority is over the interests of its citizens and its jurisdiction is over matters of this life only; it has nothing to do with matters of eternity, which is the sole purview of the church. 

Generally speaking, the central topic of the five papers is church-state relations and the legal system.  Three of the papers discuss China’s restrictive religious regulations and model, the influence of Christian ethics on modern citizenship rights and society, and the relationship in feudal times of traditional religion with politics.  The other two papers are about how the Mormon Church came under legal pressure that led to its becoming accepted in American mainstream society and about classic theories on modern British constitutional government-civil society and religious tolerance.

Christian rights defense lawyer Gao Zhisheng is still in prison.  Dr. Fan Yafeng is still under house arrest. The outdoor worship service of Beijing Shouwang Church which started in April 2011 is still continuing, as is government persecution of the church; its future is still uncertain.  Encouragingly, however, churches and Christians in China are demonstrating an unprecedented high awareness of rights defense, and rights defense movements are in full swing.  In this process, love- and justice-centered Christian ethics are providing rights defenders with enduring moral motivation and strong confidence.

What impact will the leadership shuffle at the top echelons of power in the Chinese Communist Party and government have on religious freedom, the rule of law and church-state relations in China? Let’s wait and see.  ChinaAid will continue to dedicate itself to promoting the improvement of religious freedom, human rights and the rule of law in China.  In the pursuit of that goal, we need the participation of churches both in and outside China, especially church leaders and elite Christian groups, working with the efforts of people of justice everywhere, combining theoretical exploration with practice and effectively promoting the healthy development of constitutional government-civil society and church-state relations in China.

Rev. Bob Fu, PhD, founder and president of China Aid Association

Table of Contents Editor’s Note ………………………………….by Bob Xiqiu Fu.….3
Regulating Religion Under Communism ……………by Yang Fenggang…...8
Christianity and Civil Society in China ………………by Mark Chuanhang Shan….27
From Marginalization to Mainstream: State Regulation and the Evolution of Mormonism
……………………………………………………by Lu Yunfeng……76
A Look at the Characteristics of Church-State Relations in the Chinese Tradition from the Perspectives of the “Three Religions”—Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism
………………………………………………by Yang Jun ……….97
A Letter Concerning Toleration (I)……….by John Locke …………113

1. Photocopy of “Suggestions for doing a good job of resisting foreign use of religion to infiltrate institutes of higher education and preventing campus evangelism.” (Nationwide) ………………130
2. Photocopy of Rejection of March Permit Request (Jilin Province)……..131
3. Photocopy of Penalty Decision (Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region) …....132

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