US-based Chinese award-winning photojournalist, Lu Guang, has been missing for over a month after being detained by Chinese authorities.
Update 7/12: Chinese police have confirmed that Lu Guang has been arrested. While this was suspected to be the case for some time, Lu’s wife confirmed the news late last week after speaking with police. The reason why he was arrested is still unknown.
The photographer has been detained since November 3, after he landed in the autonomous Xinjiang region in Western China. He was to host a workshop in the region, which has been conducting a largescale anti-terrorism operation, targeting the Uighur ethnic group.
The security climate has led many to speculate that Lu was detained by Xinjiang security officers due to the sensitivity toward journalists.
Lu is best known for documenting the dark side to China’s economic boom, with a focus on social and environmental issues such as the SARS epidemic, AIDS, pollution and safety standards.
Lu, a Chinese citizen living in America, initially upset his government for highlighting the harsher realities faced in China. But his award-winning work won the respect of a global audience, and he’s now a celebrated Chinese figure both at home and abroad.
His wife, Xu, who lives with their son Michael in New York, has attempted to contact authorities multiple times to learn the status of Lu.
After weeks of silence, Xu publicised her husband’s disappearance through social media in China which has been picked up by western media such as the BBC, NY Times, and other mainstream outlets.
‘He’s such a hero on China,’ says Lu’s agent and long-time friend, Robert Pledge of Contact Press Image. ‘The social media response has been amazing. People are asking: What happened?’
Hong Kong’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club says it’s ‘deeply concerned’ about Lu’s disappearance, calling on Chinese authorities to ‘at the very least, confirm Mr Lu’s whereabouts, and ensure that he is safe, and, if he has not broken any laws, be allowed to leave China and return to his family in the United States as soon as possible’.
The US National Press Club has called for the release of Lu in a letter to the Chinese ambassador of America.
‘Frankly, we are concerned that Lu’s case is just the latest example of a disturbing trend: journalists being jailed by China as a way to silence them. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 41 news professionals were imprisoned in China at the end of last year–the second highest total of any nation. As China expands its media presence across the globe, journalists for your country’s news agencies have been able to take advantage of press freedoms here and in other host countries to report critically about government institutions. We would hope that members of the media would be able to do the same in China.’
Lu was awarded the W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography in 2009, and several World Press Photo Awards.