Christianity and the Rule of Law in Chinese Societies

March 29-31, 2019
Purdue University

Jiayin Hu

A special conference on “Christianity and the Rule of Law in Chinese Societies” was held at Purdue University from March 29-31, 2019. More than 30 scholars, students, and legal professionals from the United States, mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, and England came together to discuss the relationship between Christianity and the rule of law in Chinese societies

In his opening address, Professor Fenggang Yang presented recent research on the rise of Christianity in China and his reflection on its connection to the rule of law. Professor Yang traced the history of rule of law in China since the Republican period and highlighted the significant roles that Christians played over the past century in drafting the ROC constitution, pursuing democracy, and advancing the rule of law in modern China. The first day of the conference also included a visit to the Tippecanoe County Courthouse in Lafayette, during which the conference participants learned about the U.S. legal system through attending a sentencing hearing and interacting with some local American legal professionals.

Nine panel sessions covered various aspects of the connections between Christianity and the rule of law. The impact of Christianity on the rule of law in Chinese societies were addressed in three sessions from different angles. Two historical case studies, one on the National Christian Council of China (NCC) in the 1920s and the other on the legal thoughts of the prominent Catholic Wu Jingxiong, examined the historical connections of Christianity and law in the Republican period. With regards to its current impact, two papers examined the legal practices of Christian lawyers in mainland China, and another two papers discussed the grassroot Christian roles in legislation in Taiwan and law enforcement in mainland China, respectively.

In terms of the impact of law on Christianity in Chinese societies, two scholars discussed their observations of the church-state relations in the PRC’s social and political contexts, and another two presented studies of the implementation of religious regulations in China. The conference also featured a panel discussion on the new Regulations of Religious Affairs, during which Gordon Melton, a distinguished professor of American religious history from Baylor University, and Professor Fenggang Yang presented their readings of China’s religious regulations.

Apart from historical and empirical research papers on Christianity and law in Chinese societies, the conference also included reflections on Christianity and rule of law from Christian scholars and legal practitioners. In three different sessions, they talked about a wide range of topics, including the religious origins of modern legal norms, Christian theology and its implications for Christians’ public responsibilities, and Christians’ rights consciousness as well as their legal defense in China today.