BEIJING, JUNE 1 -- A Chinese graduate of the University of Arizona arrested earlier this year after he participated in a prodemocracy demonstration is to be put on trial "very soon," a top education official has said.

Yang Wei, 31, was arrested Jan. 11 in Shanghai after taking part in the student demonstrations there for freer speech and democracy last December. It was the first known arrest of a Chinese student who returned from recent study in the United States. Chinese officials have charged Yang with unspecified counterrevolutionary activities.

The case has aroused concern among Chinese students abroad and U.S. officials. American officials say about 19,000 Chinese are currently studying in the United States. Many of them have said they are worried about how the recent political turmoil is going to affect them, and some have said they may reconsider their plans to return to China.

During a speech to about 100 Chinese students in Houston last week, He Dong Chang, a vice chairman of China's State Education Commission, said authorities plan to try Yang "very soon," according to Yang's wife, Che Shaoli, who attended the talk. He is part of an education delegation visiting the United States. The commission is China's highest education authority.

In a telephone interview last weekend, Che, a graduate student in immunology at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said another member of the delegation later told students that Yang would be tried in public by "judicial organs," perhaps in early June, on charges that he organized a counterrevolutionary group to overthrow the government.

Asked about Yang's case today, an official at the State Education Commission said there could be no comment because the spokesman was in the United States with the delegation.

So far, Yang's parents in Shanghai have not been notified about a trial, his wife said. "I asked her {Yang's mother} to go and find out and see if they could be present at the trial," she said. "But she was not able to find out any information."

What Che fears most, she said, is a secret trial.

She said several Chinese students affiliated with universities and colleges on the U.S. East Coast have volunteered to return to China to attend Yang's trial to show their support.

U.S. officials in Washington and Beijing have repeatedly asked for information about Yang, who is a Chinese citizen. Secretary of State George P. Shultz raised the case with Foreign Ministry officials during his visit here in March, U.S. officials have said.

An American diplomat today said officials had heard indirectly about a trial but were not aware of when it would take place.

"It's a kind of touchy situation," he said. "The Chinese keep pressing us to make sure they {the Chinese students} don't stay in the United States."

At the same time, the diplomat said, by singling out Yang from among tens of thousands of other demonstrating students in Shanghai, "what does this tell the {Chinese students} in the States? What was this guy doing that was so egregious?"

Che has said her husband supported the call for more political freedom in China and had apparently distributed posters at some Shanghai universities during the period of demonstrations last winter.

She said Yang went to the United States in 1983 and earned a master's degree at the University of Arizona. He returned to China in May 1986 to marry Che. She arrived in the United States last November and expected her husband to return to Arizona once arrangements for his doctoral program were complete.

Yang's relatives have not been allowed to visit him, but he has apparently received packages of food from his family. At least 23 persons have been arrested in connection with the student protests.