Chinese priest gets jail time for theft, supporters say he was framed

(UCAN) Supporters of a government approved priest in northeast China who was sentenced to 18-months jail for stealing money from a church-run retirement home say he was framed because of his evangelization work.

Father Fei Jisheng from Liaoning Diocese in northeast China was sentenced by a court in the city of Gaizhou along with layman He Xianmin who was given one year probation.

Both men have been ordered to compensate the Catholic Church in Gaizhou with 121,200 yuan (US$18,435) believed to be the amount of charity money that the court said they stole.

A source close to Father Fei told that local Catholics and clergy believe the priest and the layman where framed by security officials.

They say Father Fei ran a successful evangelization program called the Apostolic Class that was not approved by the government and that is why he was targeted by the state. The program started in 2007 and spread across China. It is particularly active in northeastern Liaoning and Hebei provinces.

The source said Bishop Pei Junmin of Liaoning tried communicating with the provincial religious affairs bureau and the United Front Work Department over the case but had little success with both official bodies. [More]