Chinese Dissident Is Detained upon Return to Beijing Relations with U.S. Could Suffer

Article excerpt

Police detained China's leading dissident Friday as he returned to Beijing from almost a month of travel in the northeast, his secretary said.

The detention of Wei Jingsheng may complicate efforts by the United States and China to prevent relations from deteriorating further over human rights differences.

The Clinton administration has been threatening to revoke China's low-tariff trading privileges in June unless China improves its human rights record. Former Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance met with China's foreign minister Tuesday but refused to say afterward whether he carried any new messages from the White House.

In a mildly worded statement, the United States said Friday that it regretted the renewed detention of Wei. A State Department spokeswoman said the United States had seen reports of Wei's detention and had asked the U.S. Embassy in Beijing to check them.

"If true, we regret that the Chinese government has taken this further step to harrass Wei and urge that he be released," the spokeswoman said.

"To the best of our knowledge, Wei has only made use of the universally recognized right to freedom of speech in carrying out peaceful political activities."

Wei's secretary, Tong Yi, said a caravan of at least seven police cars carrying about 20 officers stopped Wei's car as it approached Beijing on the highway from the nearby port city of Tianjin.

Police showed the dissident a "detention and interrogation warrant," placed him in a police car and drove toward Beijing, according to Tong, who said she was with Wei at the time.

She said she did not read the summons and did not know why he was taken away.

Wei was released from prison on parole last September after serving all but six months of his 15-year sentence for his activism. He has continued his campaign to promote democracy and human rights. …