Two months after body found, no explanation for death of Chinese priest

Cardinal Kung Foundation

The death of a Catholic priest in China has still not been explained, two months after his body was found.

At a memorial mass in Hong Kong on December 30, Cardinal Joseph Zen-Ze-kiun, the former bishop of Hong Kong, questioned why Chinese authorities had not yet been able to ascertain the circumstances of Father Pedro Yu Heping's death.

According to UCA News, Cardinal Zen suggested that even if the police did come to a conclusion, there would be no way of knowing if it had been falsified.

Heping's body was found in the Fen River in Taiyuan, Shanxi province on November 8. Initial reports suggested that police ruled the death a suicide, though this claim has since been reversed.

The Cardinal King Foundation, a human rights organisation that advocates for the underground Catholic Church in China, said Fr Heping, 41, was heavily involved in pastoral work, particularly in poor and remote areas.

He also established an underground seminary to train other priests in the Church.

In an unpublished article written before his death, Heping had urged the Vatican not to "give up real religious freedom" in its negotiations with the Chinese government.

The Communist Party is believed to be becoming progressively more suspicious of the influence of Christianity, which is experiencing significant growth in the country. Up to 1,700 churches have been demolished or had their crosses removed in Zhejiang province, and a number of church leaders and their lawyers have been arrested and detained.