Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chinese Police Threaten Dissident With Charges

BEIJING -- Police threatened Tuesday to press new criminal charges against a former political prisoner, Wei Jingsheng, in a clear effort to squelch the Chinese dissident community's revived outspokenness.

Since his release six months ago after 14 1/2 years in prison, Wei had encouraged dissidents to get in touch with ordinary workers and peasants and speak out about their problems.

Authorities have worried that the dissidents might try to take advantage of public discontent over rising prices and mobilize mass protests to mark the fifth anniversary of the crushed 1989 democracy movement.

Police, who took Wei into custody four days ago, said Tuesday they were questioning him on suspicion of "new criminal offenses."

The move against Wei will make even more difficult the U.S. government's task of finding enough signs of improvement in China's human rights situation to renew its low-tariff trade status, called most-favored-nation status.

When he renewed China's MFN status last year, President Bill Clinton said 1994 renewal would require China to improve its treatment of dissidents and Tibetans, stop jamming Voice of America broadcasts and take other steps. But as the June deadline for his decision nears, Clinton is under growing pressure from U.S. businessmen to drop the conditions for fear of being shut out of the China market.

If anything, China has moved in recent weeks to clamp down on dissidents. Authorities rounded up nearly two dozen dissidents in early March before the visit of U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher and encouraged others -- including Wei -- to leave town.

Police picked Wei up as he tried to return to the capital on Friday. He has not been seen since.