YUAN HONGBING hardly had time to get his sit-in off the ground before the police moved in.
Frustrated with the official blockade imposed on his career since he joined the 1989 democracy movement, the Beijing University law professor targeted Wu Shuqing, the University's hard-line president sent in by the government to restore order after the military crackdown in Tiananmen Square.
``My application for a senior academic position is affected by my involvement in the political storm of 1989 and my criticism of the leftist tendency in 1992,'' Mr. Yuan wrote to Mr. Wu.
The feisty author of a controversial book discrediting Marxist orthodoxy that was banned in 1992, Yuan planned the protest in his campus office to rally students and faculty against what he says is a corrupt and discriminatory university administration.
But word got out, and most supporters were deterred by a bevy of plainclothes police officers surrounding the building. Mr. Wu's office ordered Yuan to end his protest.
Yuan's sit-in is not all that has drawn the government's attention recently. The Communists and pro-democracy reformists are squaring off again at a time when paramount leader Deng Xiaoping's death seems imminent. China seeks more tolerance from the United States in judging its human rights record but shows little forbearance for reviving political activism. At the same time, students and dissidents express a newly defiant mood.
Security officials have moved swiftly in recent days to quash new signs of dissent. They arrested two members of a nascent pluralist movement called Peace Charter last week. Two of the group's founders were arrested in their Beijing apartment two days after planning to launch a national campaign for support.
The group urged Beijing to honor human rights, guarantee wide-ranging freedoms, release all political prisoners, and apologize for and compensate victims of the Tiananmen crackdown. The activists also called for a multiparty system and warned of possible social unrest if political reforms did not begin soon.
In another instance, Chinese officials denied two Hong Kong dissidents permits to return to the mainland to visit their families. One, Yiu Yung-chin, was jailed for a year for joining the 1989 political demonstrations. The other, Richard Tsoi, lost his right to return for trying to accompany labor-union activist Han Dongfang back to China. Mr. Han is a prominent advocate of democracy who organized China's first independent trade union during the 1989 demonstrations.
During Yuan's protest, an instructor from another college and one of Yuan's colleagues were detained by campus security while attempting to reach Yuan's office, the law professor says. But eight law students managed to break past the police cordon and joined the sit-in. At a separate meeting, law faculty read statements urging the university leadership to change ``injustice'' in promotions and evaluations of teachers, Yuan said.
In April 1989, Yuan helped spearhead student protests by joining colleagues in writing a public memorial to the respected Communist Party chief Hu Yaobang. He rallied teachers behind the protests that spread across Chinese cities. He was suspended from teaching in October 1989. In 1992, Yuan edited ``Trends of History,'' which criticized hard-line controls imposed after 1989.