REGARDLESS of international opinion - and because it is determined to suppress domestic opposition - China has followed Beijing's failure to win its Olympics bid with a new run of arrests and heavy sentences. Outspoken dissidents have been sent for secret trial, two of them on the day after the International Olympic Committee chose Sydney as the host for the 2000 Games. Another, Zhang Minpeng, was sentenced to five years in prison for treason. Journalists have been arrested on suspicion of leaking ''state secrets''. The atmosphere of intimidation continues. Zhang apparently was sentenced before the Olympics decision but news of his jailing has emerged only now. Justice Minister Xiao Yang this month professed to know nothing about claims that a group of dissidents were to be tried as counter-revolutionaries.Yet the news that Yao Kaiwen and Gao Xiaoliang had been tried for counter-revolution even before he spoke did not bode well for China's beleaguered dissidents. Worse still was the case of detained Shanghai dissident Fu Shenqi, who was sent by the Re-Education through Labour Management Committee to do farm labour for three years. His case has not been heard in the courts, since the committee is outside the judicial system. He has been refused an administrative review and there has been no word on his appeal. In this atmosphere, President Jiang Zemin's decision to go to Seattle next month to meet leaders of the Asian Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) forum shows remarkable self-confidence. Mr Jiang is not planning to ease the pressure on dissidents or offer any concessions that might help woo American opinion. Far from teaching China the error of its ways, the visit of Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights John Shattuck - and the scheduled visits of other American officials - appear to have confirmed Beijing in its view that standing its ground will lose it no friends in the long term. But Mr Shattuck has made it clear he does not consider China has yet made the significant progress in human rights required to allow President Bill Clinton to renew its Most Favoured Nation (MFN) trading status for a further year. China will have to workhard to change that view before the MFN decision comes up next summer. For China to lose its MFN status would be a blow to its prosperity, to Hong Kong and to Sino-US relations. But the reality is that China is putting its trade at risk because it is unable to tolerate dissent. Mr Jiang is said to want American assurances on MFN before China makes any serious concessions. Mr Clinton should make it clear to his Chinese visitor that Washington is deeply concerned about human rights. Mr Jiang should realise that international scrutiny cannot be shrugged off.