Mgr Luke Li Jingfeng, 85, is Bishop of Feng Xiang in Shaanxi province (central China), a diocese that until two years ago was the only one in the People's Republic of China that did not have a government-controlled 'official Church' but only the "underground Church".
In the summer of 2001, the Religious Affairs Bureau opened an office in Feng Xiang to register Catholics belonging to the official Church and get them to sign up with the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CCPA), which the Chinese Communist Party uses to manage Catholic life in the country. Often party members involved in the CCPA are atheists.
In November 2001 the diocese came under harsh repressive measures when the authorities raided convents and parishes. In a month, police arrested the bishop and many priests and laymen; none of them wanted to join the CCPA.
Local sources said at the time that some police officers who had entered the Feng Xiang Cathedral took Bishop Li away for a long political session telling him to take lots of clothes. He and his assistant were eventually taken to an unknown place.
Once under custody and held in hotels, the priests were forced to 'study' the government's Regulations on Religions which describe how people can practice their faith. The Regulations ban any priest from performing his ministry independently of government rules and regulations. Bishop Li was released for Christmas in 2001.
A year ago, the government recognised Bishop Li as a bishop of the Church without becoming a member of the CCPA.
Local Catholics are quite happy to see that the government has stopped requiring membership in the CCPA, an organisation that preaches separation from the Pope.
At the same time, this has reassured the government that Catholics will respect law and order.