A Chinese bishop who refused to join a government organisation set up to monitor Catholics has died aged 90.
Bishop Thomas Zhang Huaixin was consecrated as Bishop of Anyang, Henan province, in 2004, but only on the condition that he would not have to join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA).
Relations have historically been strained between the Catholic Church and China's ruling Communist party (CPC) over irreconcilable claims to authority. The Vatican does not accept the validity of episcopal consecrations by the CPCA, and an underground Catholic Church refuses to compromise with the state and is loyal only to the Pope.
Bishop Zhang Huaixin was ordained in the Church in 1950, but suffered for his faith under the CPC's rule for two decades. He was labelled a "rightist" following Chairman Mao's 'Hundred Flowers Campaign' in the late 1950s, and served six years in labour camps.
His 2004 consecration was public and state-approved, however, signalling a slight easing of tensions between the Vatican and China's hardline government.
According to the Herald Malaysia, locals described him as a "much loved pastor, who managed to keep the faith and fidelity to the Pope, while trying to deal with the government".
The diocese of Anyang is said to have grown under his leadership.
However, the CPC is believed to be becoming progressively more suspicious of the influence of Christianity, which is experiencing significant growth in China. In 2011, the Pew Center estimated that there were nine million Catholic living on the mainland.
A funeral Mass for Bishop Zhang Huaixin will be held at the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Anyang on May 14.