A scholar from China's Muslim Uighur minority community who often criticized the country's ethnic policies is set to go on trial on separatism charges in the country's far western region of Xinjiang.

Ilham Tohti is a former economics professor in Beijing accused of activities aimed at overthrowing Chinese rule in Xinjiang. He has rejected the allegations.

His trial is set to open Wednesday morning at Urumqi People's Intermediate Court, but it was not immediately clear if the proceedings were underway. Foreign journalists were not allowed inside, court officials announced no details and the court's telephone number rang unanswered.

Police formed a several-block perimeter around the venue with tape, keeping away journalists, bystanders and several Western diplomats who traveled to Urumqi in attempts to witness the trial.