CHINA yesterday denied it had detained certain dissidents although many of those concerned had already confirmed their ordeals to the foreign media. Quoting sources from the Ministry of Public Security, Xinhua (the New China News Agency) issued a statement denying that certain dissidents had been detained as reported by the media in Hong Kong and overseas. ''Only Zhou Guoqiang, Yuan Hongbing and Wang Jiaqi are being investigated according to law . . . as they are suspected of being involved in unlawful acts in inciting turmoil and disrupting social order or in criminal cases,'' the report said. Others listed in the press as having been detained, including Wei Jingsheng and Wang Dan, two of China's most famous dissidents, ''are not put under detention,'' said the report. It said Mr Wei had applied to the Public Security Department ''to go out of Beijing for some private matter and his application has been approved''. However, at least Mr Wang and another Beijing-based labour activist, Qian Yumin, had confirmed their detention to foreign reporters and gave detailed accounts of their ordeals. In an interview yesterday, Mr Qian, who was held for three days by Beijing police, said the United States should renew China's Most Favoured Nation (MFN) trade status because economic growth, fostered by trade and investment, was the key to democratic development. ''Most Favoured Nation status can push forward China's economic development,'' said Mr Qian, who was only released last Saturday. ''Of course, we want President [Bill] Clinton to be concerned about human rights,'' he said. ''But the quest for human rights improvements should not be coupled with economic sanctions, such as cancelling MFN. ''Just because a country tries to put pressure on China, that doesn't mean it will yield. China needs to deepen and advance its economic reforms. Only on this foundation can this problem [of human rights] be completely resolved. China needs to have more of its people become prosperous. ''Once people are prosperous, their thinking and cultural level reach a higher plane, and people's ideological awareness becomes stronger.'' Mr Qian, a leader of an attempt in 1989 to set up an independent labour union, said this opinion was held by a number of other dissidents with whom he had regular contact. He said that after being subpoenaed, he was questioned by police about the Peace Charter movement, begun late last year by a group of dissidents who advocate working with the authorities to achieve a peaceful transition to a multi-party system.