Police in Xinjiang detained Lu Guang, an award-winning freelance photographer who focuses on environmental and social issues, in early November 2018, according to media reports. The photographer’s wife Xu Xiaoli said in a statement that the family lost contact with Lu on November 3 while he was traveling in China. The journalist and his family have U.S. residency and are based in New York, according to the U.S. Congress funded Radio Free Asia (RFA) and Voice Of America (VOA).
Lu covers environmental, social, and economic issues in China, such as the effects of industrial pollution. The 57-year-old photographer has won awards three times from the Amsterdam-based nonprofit World Press Photo Foundation, was a recipient of the W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography in 2009, and a recipient of the National Geographic Photography Grant in 2010.
The photographer traveled to Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang region, on October 23, after a friend and amateur photographer asked Lu to give guidance on photography, according to the family statement.
Xu said she was in regular contact with her husband until the night of November 3. On November 6, Lu was scheduled to fly from Urumqi to meet a friend in Sichuan province. The friend, identified only as Chen, confirmed to the family on November 6 that Lu did not arrive, according to Xu’s statement.
Xu said that she later found out that police arrested Lu and the amateur photographer who had invited him to Urumqi, and taken them to Kashgar city. Authorities in Yongkang, Zhejiang province, where Lu’s household is registered, confirmed to Xu that Xinjiang authorities had taken her husband away, according to the family statement.
Police have not provided the journalist’s wife with a notice or arrest warrant and she was unable to get through to any of the police stations in Xinjiang, according to the family statement.
CPJ’s calls to the Urumqi Public Security Bureau in Xinjiang and the Yongkang Public Security Bureau in Zhejiang province went unanswered in late 2018.
Chinese film director and commentator Wang Longmeng told Aboluo News, a website that covers issues often blocked or censored in China, he believes Xinjiang authorities may have arrested Lu out of fear that he would document current events in the region, including what Beijing calls re-education camps where authorities have detained a large number of the Uighur population for “religious extremism.”
Wu Yuren, a Chinese artist who knows the detained photographer, told VOA that the current party secretary of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region has a contentious relationship with Lu over the photographer’s 2001 coverage of the AIDS crisis in Henan province. The party secretary was based in Henan at the time and had been trying to prevent news of the epidemic spreading, Wu told VOA.