BEIJING has paroled a leading organiser of the underground Catholic church in an apparent bid to conciliate Western opinion. Father Pei Ronggui, 55, was a key figure in the so-called Youtong incident of April 1989, when at least 3,000 police cracked down on ''illegal'' religious activities in the village near Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province. The news of Father Pei's ''release on parole'' on Wednesday was relayed by Chinese authorities to Hongkong-based human rights lobbyist, Mr John Kamm. However, Mr Kamm and other experts on the underground church said there were still other priests and lay workers in detention. Two months before the Tiananmen Square crackdown, the Hebei police decided to break the back of Catholicism in Youtong, a stronghold of the Trappists for decades. On March 18, 1989, the Youtong faithful set up a tent-like structure of worship in a local primary school on territory they claimed properly belonged to the church. One month later, 3,000 police armed with electric prods and water cannon sealed off the village and beat up the worshippers. Two were killed, 88 suffered severe injuries, and 32 were arrested. Father Pei, who was not arrested until July that year, was sentenced to five years in Hebei No 4 Reform-Through-Labour camp. Mr Kamm, who has repeatedly campaigned for the priest's release, said all those arrested in the Youtong affair had been set free. ''The Pei release is good news because I have raised his case with the Ministry of Justice at least 12 times,'' he said yesterday. Mr Kamm, who was in Beijing last month, said the authorities might have decided to parole the religious leader for a variety of reasons. For example, a new head of the Religious Affairs Bureau, Mr Zhang Shengzuo was installed last October and Beijing might want to reduce tension with the Vatican. ''Beijing may want to appease Western opinion in light of its bid for the Olympics,'' Mr Kamm said. ''Moreover, several American congressmen with Roman Catholic backgrounds have been putting pressure on the authorities to release the clerics''.