BEIJING, DEC. 6 -- China today blasted Western news coverage of prosecutions of prominent Chinese dissidents involved in last year's democracy movement and accused foreign reporters of trying to "unleash a new anti-China upsurge."

Foreign Ministry spokesman Li Zhaoxing said some news reports "charge China is taking advantage of the relaxation of its relations with the Western countries to penalize the so-called dissidents." He called such reports "an act of rumor-mongering and mudslinging with ulterior motives.

"Those people who wrote these reports have too much imagination," he said at the ministry's weekly news briefing. "Their attempt is to unleash a new anti-China upsurge and undermine China's relations with other countries, which are being improved."

In the last few weeks, at least a dozen major figures in last year's democracy movement have been charged with counterrevolutionary crimes. According to Chinese sources and Western diplomats, Chinese authorities have begun to charge formally these individuals because world attention is now focused on the Persian Gulf.

At the same time, Western countries gradually have lifted sanctions that were imposed on China after lethal force was used to disperse demonstrators for democracy last year. Now China may no longer need to free political prisoners to obtain economic assistance.