SHANGHAI authorities have frustrated efforts by a private ''dissident'' grouping to be registered as a political or civic body. The application was lodged with the Civil Affairs Bureau last month by the preparatory committee of the Association of Human Rights, which consists of about 12 activists. The group was told that it could only be properly registered as a trade association, a business-liaison body, or an academic research unit. ''Even if we wanted to be known as a business or academic body, we needed to have the credentials and recommendations from relevant authorities,'' a member of the group said. ''We insisted on being registered as a political or civic body, but our application was turned down.'' The activist said that since the Chinese constitution made it clear citizens had a right to form associations, the grouping intended to make an application again. He added his group would abide by Chinese law in their bid to improve the human rights standards in the country. Sources in Shanghai said members of the group included several who were active in organising a ''democracy salon'' at Fuxing Park in the heart of the city. Others were veterans of the democracy movement, whose activism went back to the late 1970s. It is understood Shanghai authorities have received instructions from Beijing not to ''legitimise'' private political groupings. Sources in the Chinese capital said a few ''underground groups'' had successfully registered with the Ministry of Civil Affairs or the Industry and Commerce Administration under the guise of academic organisations or business consultancies.