Lu Guang, Award-Winning Photographer and U.S. Green Card Holder, is Missing in China

Lu Guang was honored as a winner at the 2004 World Press Photo competition for his expose of “AIDS villages” in China’s Henan province.
Reuters file

An award-winning photographer known for capturing images of China’s environmental damage and the lives of the country’s dispossessed has vanished.

Lu Guang, a U.S. green card holder who splits his time between New York and Beijing, hasn’t been heard from since Nov. 3, according to his wife.

Lu had been meeting with photographers who had invited him to Urumqi, the capital of China’s remote Xinjiang province.

In a phone interview with NBC News, Lu’s wife, Xu Xiaoli, said was initially not very concerned when he failed to get in touch. However, when he failed to meet a friend in Sichuan province on Nov. 5, Xu suspected something was wrong.

“The authorities haven’t informed me of his whereabouts,” she said from New York. “More than 20 days and no word from him. The longer I wait the more worried I am.”

Xu tried reaching officials in Xinjiang but was unable to find anyone able or willing to help her. Xu then contacted the wife of the photographer who had invited Lu to visit. She said they were both taken away by state security.

“I don’t know whether this is because of his work,” Xu said. “I don’t know why he was detained. He only went there to have a professional exchange with other photographers.”

In a country where media is state-controlled and heavily censored, Lu’s work has long revealed a side of China that carries a risk of chafing authorities. Portraits of coal miners, AIDS patients, and drug addicts as victims of China’s economic rise are subjects Beijing may consider “sensitive.”

Most recently, Lu’s work for Greenpeace has focused on pollution and how development has steadily poisoned China’s landscape and its people.

Greenpeace declined to comment on his disappearance.

However, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Committee to Protect Journalists have all called on China’s government to clarify what happened to Lu.

“Chinese authorities must immediately account for Lu Guang’s whereabouts, allow him to travel freely, and halt the harsh measures taken against journalists throughout the country,” said Steven Butler, Asia program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists. “Lu’s detention is a high-profile illustration of the cruel and arbitrary way that China detains journalists and other civilians in Xinjiang.”

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SOURCE: NBC News, Janis Mackey Frayer