Chinese underground priest found dead in river

An underground priest who ran a Christian website shutdown by Chrinese authorities has died under mysterious circumstances in China, according to UCA News.

Father Pedro Yu Heping's body was found in the Fen River on 8 November and his family were informed on 11 November.

The Chinese police have claimed the death was a suicide case, however family and friends are disputing this.

A cross on an underground Catholic church is silhouetted in Tianjin, China, on Nov. 10, 2013.Reuters

Heping's body was found the day after he was supposed to have arrived at Xingcheng in Northeastern Liaoning province for a Catechetical meeting.

"Two nuns saw Father Yu off for a bus to the train station in Taiyuan on Nov. 6," an anonymous source told UCA.

"Various church members were still able to talk to him over the phone that day."

On the day he was due at the meeting, a nun received a text message which contained one Chinese character – bie – which could be interpreted to mean "farewell."

"No one believed Father Yu, as a dedicated priest, would commit suicide," the source stressed. "But now even a post-mortem is not trustworthy."

Church leaders from different areas of China have gathered in Taiyuan, the provincial capital of Shanxi, where the body was found, to petition for more information.

Heping, 40, was the first webmaster for a popular Catholic website in early 2000 called Tianzhujiao Zaixian. Due to the time difference between China and Europe, the site would translate news from the Vatican as it happened.

The unregistered website became very popular amongst the Chinese Catholic community and was shut down by Chinese authorities. It reopened in 2003, but Heping denied being involved in the relaunch.

He studied at Baoding Seminary of the Chinese Catholic Underground community in Hebei province and was ordained as an underground priest of Ningixia diocese in 2004.

He established an underground seminary and trained others for ordination.