A Chinese court has put an American businessman on trial, rejecting his US citizenship, for allegedly heading a violent mob that kidnapped rivals and operated illegal casinos, AP news agency reported.

Vincent Wu, who has said he was tortured into confessing the charges, appeared before the judge in the southern city of Guangzhou on Monday as his family claimed he was a law-abiding businessman whose rivals have framed him to seize his assets.

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.

He is also accused of operating illegal casinos that earned $7.8m, and of attacking or kidnapping people who crossed him in various disputes.

"We are still very confident, because our lawyers have all the evidence to prove that he is innocent," Wu's daughter, Anna Wu, told the Associated Press news agency. "We believe we still have a chance and so we'll hope for the best."

Wu has been denied US consular access since his detention in June 2012 despite being a US passport holder who shuttles between his family in Los Angeles and his business in China.

China refuses to acknowledge Wu's US citizenship because his last entry into mainland China was made on his Hong Kong residence pass.

Judges rejected the assertion by two consular officials in court that Wu was a US citizen.

The businessman has alleged that he was tortured in detention, telling his lawyers he was beaten, kicked and strung by his arms from a ceiling beam as police tried to coerce him to sign a confession.

Source: AP