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Dr Gerda Wielander

The Contemporary China Centre Spring 2013 Seminar Series

Dr Gerda Wielander

On 10 December 2008 a document called Charter 08 was made public in China. Inspired by the Charter 77 of Czechoslovakia and published on the 60th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights, the document proposes nineteen ‘recommendations on governance, citizens’ rights and social development’. Instead of advocating steady reform, the document calls for a fundamental change to the political system in China and is considered to be the embodiment and synthesis of theoretical and intellectual achievements by Chinese liberal intellectuals over a decade. One year after the publication of Charter 08 Liu Xiaobo, one of the men responsible for drafting the document, was sentenced to an eleven-year prison sentence for subversion. During an earlier prison sentence in 1999, Liu Xiaobo, an active participant in the democracy movement of 1989, read and made extensive notes on Christianity and political action. Two main issues appear to capture Liu’s imagination in particular: that Christianity made the transition from a persecuted religion to the official religion of the Roman Empire, and that the Christian faith became the transcendental basis for the processes of the rule of law.

This talk focuses on Chinese Christian liberals and the way faith and politics are linked in their theoretical writings, which emphasize the importance of a transcendental source of values in the construction of a polity as well as in the emergence of a true civil society in China. It also investigates the links between Christian liberals and other liberal groups such as (non-Christian) liberal intellectuals, democracy movement activists, liberals within the CCP, human rights lawyers and grassroots rights activists. As will be shown, the distinctions between these categories are blurred insofar as Christian liberal thinking has had a profound influence on and representatives in all these categories of liberals over the last decade.


Gerda Wielander is Principal Lecturer in Chinese Studies at the University of Westminster, London, and researcher at the university’s Contemporary China Centre. Gerda’s research interests lie with the intellectual and spiritual influences on social and political change in contemporary China. Her work on the ‘dissident Christian intellectual’, on electronic house church publications and activities, and most recently on the use of ‘love’ in Chinese political discourse has been published in leading international journals. Her monograph ‘Christian Values in Communist China’ will be published as part of Routledge’s Contemporary China Series in late 2013. 

Non-University of Westminster attendees please register with Dr Derek Hird

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