Xu, 40, will be tried next week for "assembling a crowd to disrupt order in a public place," a crime punishable by up to five years imprisonment, his lawyer Zhang Qingfang told the New York Times.
"This trial is basically just going through the motions. We can foresee the outcome already," Zhang said, adding Chinese courts are controlled by the Communist Party and rarely find defendants in politically continuous cases innocent.
Xu, a former law professor, is among China's most prominent human rights advocates and has spent the past decade campaigning against arbitrary detention by police, discriminatory barriers against rural schoolchildren and "black jails" used to secretly detain citizens who complain to officials.
He was detained by police in July 2013 after orchestrating a series of small protests across China, and had been under informal house arrest since April.
His supporters say his trial will be an attempt by President Xi Jinping and other Communist Party leaders to squelch organized opposition to challenge of their control, the newspaper said.