China has reportedly released a bishop jailed for more than 10 years for being a member of the underground Roman Catholic Church, loyal to the Vatican.
Bishop An is one of many jailed for underground Church membership
A US-based group, the Cardinal Kung Foundation, which monitors allegations of religious oppression in China, said Bishop An Shuxin was freed this week.
Bishop An was arrested in 1996, while working in Hebei province.
China does not recognise the Pope's authority, insisting that all Chinese Catholics belong to a state-run church.
The Chinese Church was established in the 1950s, after Beijing and the Vatican broke off diplomatic relations.
It is believed to have several million followers, but the BBC Dan Griffiths in Beijing says it is thought that millions more belong to the underground Church.
Religion has flourished in China since economic reforms began more than 30 years ago, our correspondent says, but the government still exerts tight control over all religious activity in China, fearing any challenge to its authority.
In the past, many other followers of the underground Catholic Church have also received lengthy prison sentences.
And many Buddhist monks and nuns have been jailed for their loyalty to the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
According to the Kung Foundation, despite his release Bishop An remains under surveillance. The organisation said that six other Roman Catholic bishops remain in prison in China.
"We hope that this release is not an isolated case, but rather the beginning of the release of many dozens of other Roman Catholic bishops, priests and faithful currently being jailed by the Chinese authorities across China," the Cardinal Kung Foundation said in its statement.