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The case of imprisoned Father Fei Jisheng

There was no open trial and information relating to the case is classified as a state secret
The case of imprisoned Father Fei Jisheng

Father Fei Jisheng of Liaoning in northeast China was recently sentenced to 18-months jail for stealing money from a church-run retirement home. His supporters say he was framed. (Photo supplied)

Published: October 17, 2017 03:52 AM GMT
Updated: October 17, 2017 03:53 AM GMT

The recent sentencing of Father Fei Jisheng in northeast China to 18 months' jail was seen as an official attempt to stem his controversial underground evangelical activities.

However, his conviction appears to also be at least partly related to a personal clash and internal church tensions.

Father Fei, 40, was arrested in October last year in northeastern Liaoning province for allegedly stealing a cash box containing funds for care of the elderly.

Father Fei had dismissed Han Weixing as the lay deputy director of the God's Love Senior Nursing Home in Gaizhou City for suspected corruption and trying to take control of the old people's home.

Subsequently, Han made a complaint to Chinese religious authorities about Father Fei being involved in purportedly illegal evangelizing activities.

According to sources, it is known that Han has long been in contact with communist China's public security bureau. And infiltration of the state security into the Catholic Church is an indisputable fact.

When removed from his position, Han did not hesitate to mobilize family members and people from the community to threaten and beat Father Fei.

They even filed a report to the economic crime investigation division of the public security bureau and accused Father Fei of having inappropriate relationships with women.

Although Father Fei can challenge his theft conviction, appeals in cases involving state security officials have little, if any, chance of success.

The case followed a familiar pattern in which family and supporters were prevented from seeing him.

There was no open trial and information relating to the case is classified as a state secret.

Authorities abducted Father Fei briefly in November 2015 for unclear reasons.

On June 6, 2016, Father Fei was also detained with four others who crossed outside of their own diocese to conduct evangelical activities, something that is against church rules.

He was released a month later.

Father Fei has long been under official scrutiny over fast spreading evangelistic "Apostolic classes" he has been running since 2007 even though he belongs to the government-sanctioned open-church community, rather than the illegal underground church.

The classes combine Protestant-style evangelism with elements of the Catholic charismatic movement and some dioceses in China direct Catholics not to attend.

It should be known that the Chinese government always maintains that there is religious freedom in China, but in fact it tries to suppress religion through regulation and other means.

And one church source said: "Some clergy who do not like the Apostolic Classes crossing borders into their parishes or dioceses might ask security officers to crack down on them."

In cases classified as matters of state security, guilty verdicts are inevitable unless there is mounting public pressure on authorities over false accusations.

In the case of Father Fei, the church should not only stand up to fight, but also should be alert to ruthless Catholics who are going to betray the church.

Some people in the church use the faith as a cover merely to strive for their personal and family interests.

Never let this phenomenon become a land mine that could constrain the development of the church.

If there had been no internal dispute within the church, the state security officers would have found it difficult to arrest and charge Father Fei, who was then convicted despite being innocent.

I hope the church not only reflects on the treatment of Father Fei and prays for him, but also takes action to solve internal problems.

Let this priest's sacrifice not be in vain.

Lang Taotao, is a Catholic in mainland China.

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