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American accused of leading gang in China is tried

BEIJING — An American businessman who is accused of loansharking, arson, kidnapping rivals, and paying thugs to toss acid in the face of a judge, among other crimes, went on trial this week in a case that has raised questions about the use of forced confessions by Chinese courts and prompted concern from US officials.

The businessman, Vincent Wu, a Chinese immigrant who settled in California two decades ago, was originally scheduled to stand trial more than a year ago, but his case has been repeatedly delayed.

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Since his arrest in June 2012, prison officials have refused to provide consular access to US diplomats by saying that Wu is a citizen of China, not the United States.

The trial, which began Monday at the Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court, is expected to last two weeks.

Wu, 57, described by prosecutors as the ringleader of a local crime syndicate in the southern province of Guangdong, says the confession was extracted through torture.

In a deposition, he said he had been hung from the ceiling by his arms, force-fed stimulants that kept him awake for days and beaten until he signed the confession.

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