Bishop Thomas Zhang Huaixin of Anyang, in the city of Weihu in the central Henan province, was ordained to the priesthood in 1950 and spent six years working in Chinese labour camps before his release in 1980, when he secretly became a bishop.
There has been tensions between the Vatican and the Chinese government for many years, with the former demanding it maintains spiritual independence when appointing clergy, and the latter fearing appointments influenced from outside the country could undermine or usurp the government.
Rt Revd Huiaxin repeatedly refused official approval from the government until 2004, when he was sufficiently sure the move would not mean he would have to join the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association - part of the state-controlled church.
From labour camps and becoming a bishop undercover, Bishop Huaixin's Anyang Diocese now has 30 priests and 129 nuns serving around 50,000 Catholics.
The late bishop, who suffered from diabetes and heart problems before his death, will be succeeded by 45-year-old Bishop Joseph Zhang Yinlin, 45.
His funeral is on May 14th.