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China's Foreign Ministry angrily accused the U.S. of intervening in its internal affairs when Washington condemned the harsh, 14-year prison term given Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng. "The Beijing government hates to have anyone telling it how to handle its own citizens," says TIME's Oscar Chiang. "The sentence given to Wei was intended to be a warning to other dissidents to curtail their activism. That was the internal message. The external message was to let the world know that Wei is now a bargaining chip. It's like they are depositing him in a bank, only to withdraw him later to use for political purposes." Chiang notes that there is an outside chance that Wei could appeal the sentence and get released. "But that's unlikely," says Chiang. "The appeal is only there to give the impression that China's legal system is compatible with the rest of the world's. It's only cosmetic."