An AIDS activist and political dissident says Chinese police are threatening him with forced psychiatric treatment. His accusations are being made as Chinese authorities seek to squelch memorials to people killed during the pro-democracy Tiananmen Square protests 15 years ago.

Hu Jia is a well-known AIDS activist and lead figure in many of China's most contentious social causes. Now he says the government is threatening to send him to a mental hospital unless he agrees to silence his protests.

Mr. Hu was detained and beaten by the police in the days before the June 4 Tiananmen Square anniversary.

Nicolas Becquelin is the director of the organization Human Rights in China and spoke to Mr. Hu's family about the threats. He says police in China have the authority to put people into psychiatric institutions as a form of detention.

"That's probably the most worrying part? The public security can keep someone forever in these types of institutions? people have been detained 10, 15 20 years, there is no recourse," Mr. Becquelin said

Mr. Hu started his career as a television editor but later turned to social activism. His causes have included endangered wildlife in Tibet, increased funding for AIDS victims, and dissidents jailed for unauthorized use of the Internet.

Last month he was placed under house arrest before he could meet with the U.S. Ambassador to China about AIDS infection rates in China. Mr. Hu says his government refuses to admit the full scope of the AIDS epidemic.

Mr. Becquelin says the Chinese authorities are taking a hard-line approach with Mr. Hu because of his high profile. "Although many dissidents protest? they do not resist as much as Hu Jia has in the past. He's probably one of the most visible dissident elements in Beijing these days, at least to the outside world,? he added.

Chinese police released Mr. Hu on Sunday but he says government agents are following him and his family's telephone service has been cut.