PAROLED dissident Wei will probably join colleagues like Wang Dan and Wang Xizhe, who were released early this year, in waging a ''non-confrontational battle'' to bring about political change.
Sources in the Chinese dissident community said that much as Wei's release testified to Beijing's new-found confidence, Communist Party leaders were wary of the leadership the likes of Wei could provide should another 1989-style pro-democracy movement break out.
The former electrician has become an icon for the entire democracy movement, and not only because he was the first theoretician to elaborate on the theory of the Fifth Modernisation, or democratisation.
As the dissident who has served the longest jail term in the Deng Xiaoping era, Wei commands respect among Beijing intellectuals for maintaining his steely faith in the harshest circumstances.
Wei's friends quoted him as saying earlier this year that after leaving prison he would ''persist in human rights work''.
But dissidents in Beijing said that it was unlikely he would adopt confrontational tactics such as forming a political organisation.
''Wei could follow the Wang Dan or Wang Xizhe model,'' one source said.
''He would deny the authorities any excuse for re-arresting him. But he would try to get his message across to both Chinese and foreign audiences through means such as talking to the overseas media.'' He added that Wei might also follow the example of the two Wangs in maintaining legal contacts with students and intellectuals, as well as private businessmen, whom they see as spearheading the country's ''peaceful evolution'' towards a more liberal political system.
Political observers in Beijing said that although government surveillance remained almost omnipresent, it would be easier for Wei to spread his message in 1993 than in the late-1970s.
''Most intellectuals have access to private phones and fax machines, as well as IDD facilities,'' a Beijing journalist said.
''Networking both within China and with overseas-based dissidents has become easier.'' The journalist said that while the dissident movement was at a low ebb, most intellectuals were optimistic about changes in the post-Deng era.
The leadership for future liberalisation movements would be more likely to come from dissidents who spent time in jail than those who fled abroad after the June 4 crackdown, he said.