Lu Guang: Award-winning Chinese photographer disappears in Xinjiang

Award winning Chinese photographer Lu Guang has gone missing while visiting China’s Xinjiang region, according to his wife on Tuesday.

According to the Guardian, Lu Guang was travelling in Xinjiang on 3 November when she lost contact with him, Xu Xiaoli, his wife said. He had met photographers in Urumqi, the capital, one week before and was scheduled to meet a friend in Sichuan province on 5 November, but never showed up.

A friend of Xu helped her inquire about her husband’s whereabouts in his home province of Zhejiang, where authorities said Lu and a fellow photographer had been taken away by Xinjiang state security. They did not give any further details, the friend told Xu.

The South China Morning Post wrote that Lu Guang is an US green card holder who usually lived in eastern China, 57-year-old Lu is a familiar name in domestic and foreign media alike. His work reflected his strong views about industrialisation and damage done to the environment.

From 1980, Lu started building a career in studio photography and later studied photography at Tsinghua University in Beijing while developing a freelance career.

Since 1993, he has worked in documentary photography, recording the effects of environmental pollution, poverty, Aids villages, and drug addiction in a rapidly industrialising China.

From 2004, Lu won many international awards, including the World Press Photo, the Henry Nannen Pries, the W·Eugene Smith Grant Humanitarian Photography Award, the National Geographic Photography Award, the Dutch Prince Claus Award. He has also won the highest domestic award, the China Photography Awards.

Lu won first prize in the prestigious World Press Photo contest for a series on poor Chinese villagers who became infected with HIV after selling their own blood to eke out a living.

His photos tackle gritty subjects such as pollution and environmental destruction – issues traditionally avoided by the Chinese press because they risk punishment for exposing societal problems the government may consider sensitive.

However, Lu never had problems with the police before, according to Xu, who added that she was not aware of any photo projects he had planned for his Xinjiang trip.

Xinjiang, in far western China, has become notorious for its tight security controls and heavy surveillance, BBC reported.

Police in Yongkang said they knew nothing of Lu’s detention, while Kashgar police could not be reached for comment.