An underground priest, running a Christian website that has long been shut down by Chinese authorities, died. His body was found in the Fen River.
Father Pedro Yu Heping, or better known as Wei Heping, was found dead in the Fen River on Nov 8. His family received the news three days later from the police, as reported by UCA News.
The Chinese police claimed the priest committed suicide. His family and friends, however, are not convinced. Circumstances before his death made many close to the priest disbelieve that he could commit suicide.
Heping's body was found a day after he was supposed to arrive at Xincheng, Northeastern Liaoning province. He went there for a Catechetical meeting. An anonymous source claimed that the priest was even seen off by two nuns in the bus to the train station in Taiyuan on Nov 6. Church members were also able to talk to him over the phone on that day. On the day he was supposed to go to the meeting, a nun claimed that the priest even texted her, which contained a Chinese character "bie," which means "goodbye."
Even with this telling text, the anonymous source claimed that it is just impossible for the priest to commit suicide based on his character. "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 across China had convened in Taiyuan to investigate more about the details surrounding the death. Christian Solidarity Worldwide's Chief Operating Officer Andy Dipper said: "We are concerned about the circumstances surrounding the death of Father Yu earlier this month and join his friends, colleagues and church leaders in calling for an impartial and prompt investigation." The organization also submitted a report to the UN Committee against Torture with regard reports of torture and ill-treatment of religious leaders in the country.
Heping was only 40. He was the first webmaster for a site called "Tianzhujiao Zaixian." The site translates news from the Vatican into Chinese so that news in real time can be delivered to Chinese readers. The unregistered site became popular among the Chinese Catholic community.
Later on, the site was shut down by the authorities. The site was relaunched in 2003, even though Heping denied being involved in this revival.
Heping obtained his education from the Baoding Seminary of the Chinese Catholic Underground community in Hebei province. He was ordained as an underground priest of Ningxia diocese in 2004.