Peter Joseph Fan Xueyan, 84, a Catholic bishop who was imprisoned for more than 30 years for his refusal to break ties with the Vatican, died of pneumonia April 13. The place of his death was not reported.

He had served as bishop in the northern city of Baoding, Hebei province.

Under various forms of detention for most of the past 34 years, he was one of the world's longest-serving prisoners of conscience. In 1951, he became one of the last Chinese bishops ordained by the Vatican before China broke ties.

However, many Catholics such as Bishop Fan remained loyal to the pope. Hundreds of Catholic clerics and laymen who refused to support the Catholic Patriotic Association were arrested. Bishop Fan, who ordained many of the underground priests and bishops in Hebei province, was arrested in 1958 because he "stubbornly refused to accept" the association, the government said. He was originally sentenced to 15 years, but was imprisoned for 21.

The official Chinese church stripped Bishop Fan of his post as bishop of Baoding. However, the post was never filled, and he was reinstated when he was finally released in 1979.

Three years later, Bishop Fan was arrested again and sentenced to 10 years in prison for "colluding with foreign forces to jeopardize the sovereignty and security of the motherland," an apparent reference to his continued loyalty to the Vatican.

He was released from a Hebei jail in 1988, but was kept under house arrest and was frequently moved to prevent him from exerting too much influence over the Baoding Catholic community.