The question of an American businessman's nationality has taken centre stage in his trial on 10 serious criminal charges - including accusations of being an organised crime boss - in a Guangzhou court.
Vincent Wu, 57, who has business interests in fruit trading and property development in Huizhou , is being tried as a Chinese national even though he holds a US passport.
Wu is accused of participating in a number of organised criminal activities, including kidnapping, fraud, assault, arson, running a casino and possession of ammunition. He is one of 34 defendents being tried at the Guangzhou Intermediate People's Court,
The charges have been denied by Wu and his daughter, Anna Wu, who claim Wu's elder brother and business rivals bribed Huizhou police to fabricate the charges. They hope that proving Wu's US citizenship could help his plight.
"We must prove that he is a American citizen, otherwise the whole sentencing is going to be different," Wu said.
The court cited a Ministry of Public Security statement deeming Wu to be a Chinese national, as he entered the mainland using his Hong Kong resident's home-return card. China does not recognise dual citizenship.
"The court regarded him as a Chinese national without going through diplomatic procedures and yet it allowed the presence of a US diplomat in the court," said Wu's legal adviser, Li Zhuang . "The Ministry of Public Security stripped away his US citizenship. This is clearly ridiculous."
Li was stripped of his lawyer's qualifications after he was jailed by a Chongqing court during the administration of disgraced municipal party boss Bo Xilai . Li appeared in court yesterday as a "civilian representative" of Wu's.
Wu told the court yesterday that he had been subjected to repeated torture in detention to extract a confession since his arrest on June 22, 2012.
Steve Brault, chief of the American Citizen Service at US consulate in Guangzhou said he would continue to monitor the case closely, but declined to discuss specific measures. "Vincent Wu is a US citizen. We take the welfare of detained US citizens very seriously," he said.
The hearing yesterday, which attracted a crowd of lawyers and journalists, as well as relatives and friends of the 34 accused, began with a heated debate over Wu's nationality.
After lengthy discussion over whether or not Wu should be tried as a US citizen, the judge suggested that the matter could be decided once the trial was underway. Wu's side argued that was unacceptable.
"In 1999, I pledged my loyalty to the US, not to any other country," Wu said during the hearing.