In a break from their usual silence on contentious human rights issues, two state-run English-language newspapers published detailed reports on a rights activist who is on trial for allegedly inciting subversion. Both China Daily and the Global Times reported on the hearing of Tan Zuoren, an activist whose essay on June 4, e-mail exchanges with exiled student leader Wang Dan, and investigation into shoddily built schools that collapsed and killed students in last year's Sichuan earthquake were cited as reasons for the charges against him. But experts on mainland media are sceptical about the apparent loosening of control over the two mouthpieces, saying it was probably an attempt to show the government as liberal and open to the English-speaking audience. China Daily reported the story from Chengdu with comprehensive details on the hearing at Chengdu Intermediate Court from Tan's lawyer Pu Zhiqiang and other activists who were held or turned away from the trial by police. Several of Tan's supporters, such as outspoken artist Ai Weiwei and environmentalist Ai Nanshan, had offered to be witnesses. But Ai Weiwei said on Wednesday that he was roughed up and held in his hotel room before the trial. Ai Nanshan said he was denied entry to the court. The Global Times focused on the detention of four parents who lost their children in the collapsed schools, and who attempted to attend the trial. It also put the report in a prominent spot on its website. Such detailed reports were in contrast to curbs placed on Hong Kong media trying to cover the trial. Two journalists from Now TV were detained by police, who said they had received a tip-off that there were illegal drugs in the pair's hotel rooms. The reporters were later released but missed the trial. Sensitive cases such as those involving activists are often not reported by mainland media. No Chinese-language newspapers, including the Chinese-language version of Global Times, mentioned the trial. Chan Yuen-ying, director of the Journalism and Media Studies Centre at the University of Hong Kong, said the central government should impose 'one standard' on the media and allow them to report freely. 'Maybe they know they are writing to a more international audience, so they have to be more credible,' Professor Chan said. Zhan Jiang, a professor of journalism and communications at the China Youth University for Political Sciences, said the stories were most likely approved by the propaganda authorities. 'Maybe the government wants to portray itself as having an open and liberal image to the newspapers' Western readers.' Details and comments on the case were still spreading on the internet as users circulated thoughts through blogs or increasingly popular microblogging services such as Twitter, even though it is blocked on the mainland.