An American businessman stood trial in China on Monday for allegedly heading a violent mob that kidnapped rivals and operated illegal casinos, charges he's said he was tortured into confessing.
Authorities in southern China have accused Vincent Wu of gang crimes but Wu's family and lawyers say he's a law-abiding businessman whose rivals have framed him to seize his assets.
Wu's lawyers urged a court in the southern city of Guangzhou to recognize the defendant's American citizenship as he and more than two dozen associates stood trial.
Wu has been denied U.S. consular access since his detention in June 2012 despite being a U.S. passport holder who shuttles between his family in Los Angeles and his business in China.
China refuses to acknowledge Wu's American citizenship because his last entry into mainland China was made on his Hong Kong residence pass.
The case underscores the risks faced by individuals working in China who have travel documents from more than one country because Beijing does not recognize dual nationalities.
Two U.S. consular officials attended Monday's hearing and told the court the American government recognized Wu's U.S. citizenship but judges rejected their assertion, said Wu's legal adviser, Li Zhuang.
The Guangzhou Intermediate People's Court and the U.S. Embassy in Beijing had no immediate comment.
Wu is charged with getting an associate to throw acid at a judge who ruled against him in a lawsuit, and with ordering thugs to set fire to sheds owned by farmers who refused his offer of compensation to clear off land he wanted to develop.
Wu is also accused of operating illegal casinos that raked in 48 million yuan ($7.8 million) and of attacking or kidnapping people who crossed him in various disputes.
The businessman has also alleged that he was tortured in detention, telling his lawyers he had been beaten, kicked and strung by his arms from a ceiling beam as police tried to coerce him to sign a confession.