SNATCHED BY SPOOKS? Chinese photographer who documented the dark side of life in the communist state mysteriously vanishes

Lu Guang disappeared in China’s Xinjiang region last month while documenting the country’s oppression of Muslims

The Sun UK

AN award-winning Chinese photographer who candidly documented the dark side of the country’s booming economy has mysteriously vanished.

Lu Guang, a three-time World Press Photo award winner, disappeared in China’s Xinjiang region last month while documenting the country’s oppression of Muslims and may have been detained by state security officers, his wife said.

 Lu Guang had made a career out of depicting the dark side of China’s booming economy including this one of 13-year-old Gao Rongsheng at the grave of his parents after they died from AIDS

Lu Guang/World Press Photo Foundation
Lu Guang had made a career out of depicting the dark side of China’s booming economy including this one of 13-year-old Gao Rongsheng at the grave of his parents after they died from AIDS


Lu, who lives in New York, was invited to Xinjiang to take part in photography events in the regional capital in October but his wife Xu Xiaoli revealed she last heard from him on November 3.

According to social media posts, Lu was travelling alone in the southern city of Kashgar at the time of his disappearance and his wife was later told that national security officers in the heavily-controlled region had taken him away.

In a detailed letter posted on Twitter, Xu revealed she had not received any official notice of her husband’s arrest and had so far been unable to contact Xinjiang police.

She said: “He has been lost for more than 20 days. Dec. 4 is our 20th wedding anniversary. He was meant to celebrate with us together.”

 Lu Guang disappeared in China's Xinjiang region last month while documenting the country's oppression of Muslims

AP:Associated Press
Lu Guang disappeared in China’s Xinjiang region last month while documenting the country’s oppression of Muslims


 Pollution in China is so great that the country has seen the emergence of 'cancer villages'

Lu Guang/World Press Photo Foundation
Pollution in China is so great that the country has seen the emergence of ‘cancer villages’


 11-year-old Xu Li of Hustsou is diagnosed with bone cancer

Lu Guang / World Press Photo Awards
11-year-old Xu Li of Hustsou is diagnosed with bone cancer


 Lu's award-winning work has gained international acclaim, including this one of children with cerebral palsy licking milk powder off a bed to feed

Lu Guang / World Press Photo Awards
Lu’s award-winning work has gained international acclaim, including this one of children with cerebral palsy licking milk powder off a bed to feed


 Disabled orphans adopted by charitable farmers

Lu Guang / World Press Photo Awards
Disabled orphans adopted by charitable farmers


 Children in the orphanage 'Home of Care and Love' curl up against each other to sleep

Lu Guang/World Press Photo Foundation
Children in the orphanage ‘Home of Care and Love’ curl up against each other to sleep


 This shot by Lu won the 1st Prize Contemporary Issues Stories in World Press Photo of the Year in 2003

EPA
This shot by Lu won the 1st Prize Contemporary Issues Stories in World Press Photo of the Year in 2003


Lu’s award-winning work gained international acclaim for his gripping photos of sensitive social and environmental issues in China, which include pollution, drug addiction and people living with AIDS.

He had reportedly intended to document the Xinjiang region which is home to a large Muslim population being held in internment camps.

Citing the United Nations estimates, the South China Morning Post reported that Chinese authorities have detained more than one million Uyghers and other Muslim minorities in the extrajudicial camps.

Despite routine outcries from activists, academics, foreign governments and U.N. rights experts over the mass detention and strict surveillance in the area, authorities have expressed its measures are needed to combat the influence of religious extremism.

 Families such as this one have sold everything valuable to help meet medical expenses

Lu Guang/World Press Photo Foundation
Families such as this one have sold everything valuable to help meet medical expenses


 A woman carrying her severely ill grandson implores the sky to prevent the devil of pain returning

Lu Guang / World Press Photo Awards
A woman carrying her severely ill grandson implores the sky to prevent the devil of pain returning


 In some villages, up to 40 per cent of inhabitants were seropositive but were isolated from help because the existence of AIDS in China was not officially acknowledged

Lu Guang/World Press Photo Foundation
In some villages, up to 40 per cent of inhabitants were seropositive but were isolated from help because the existence of AIDS in China was not officially acknowledged


 Two girls prepare for the funeral of their six-year-old brother, who died from AIDS

Lu Guang / World Press Photo Awards
Two girls prepare for the funeral of their six-year-old brother, who died from AIDS


 Poor peasants sold their blood in the mid-1990s and as a result of unsafe procedures, a large number of them were infected with the HIV virus

Lu Guang / World Press Photo Awards
Poor peasants sold their blood in the mid-1990s and as a result of unsafe procedures, a large number of them were infected with the HIV virus


 Zhou Mao sold his blood three times in order to raise money to send his five children to school one semester

Lu Guang / World Press Photo Awards
Zhou Mao sold his blood three times in order to raise money to send his five children to school one semester


Though many details surrounding Lu’s disappearance remain unclear, the case shares similarities to other reporters who have been detained by the government for investigating negative stories about China.

Fellow photographer He Yanguang told the South China Morning Post that his missing colleague knew that his investigative photography might provoke the authorities.

He said: “He knows clearly the significance of his work to society. I hope Lu can return home safe soon.”

 A lot of Lu's work focused on industrial pollution, including this photo of The Baotou Steel plant dumping mineral processing sewage into the tailings dam

Lu Guang / World Press Photo Awards
A lot of Lu’s work focused on industrial pollution, including this photo of The Baotou Steel plant dumping mineral processing sewage into the tailings dam


 China is the world's second-largest economy but employees work in the dust

Lu Guang / World Press Photo Awards
China is the world’s second-largest economy but employees work in the dust


 Wuhai Chemical Plant produces PVC products that create lots of poisonous waste material and sewage

Lu Guang/World Press Photo Foundation
Wuhai Chemical Plant produces PVC products that create lots of poisonous waste material and sewage


 Most factories in Hainan Industrial Park of Wuhai City in Inner Mongolia are high-energy consuming and high-pollution producing

Lu Guang/World Press Photo Foundation
Most factories in Hainan Industrial Park of Wuhai City in Inner Mongolia are high-energy consuming and high-pollution producing


 In 2010, the pipeline of the Newport Oil Wharf of Dalian Bay exploded, sending lots of oil into the sea

Lu Guang/World Press Photo Foundation
In 2010, the pipeline of the Newport Oil Wharf of Dalian Bay exploded, sending lots of oil into the sea


 Firefighter Zhang Liang, 25, died during the clean-up operations

Lu Guang/World Press Photo Foundation
Firefighter Zhang Liang, 25, died during the clean-up operations


 While driving to clear debris, Zhang Liang was caught in an undercurrent and drowned as his colleagues tried in vain to rescue him

Lu Guang/World Press Photo Foundation
While driving to clear debris, Zhang Liang was caught in an undercurrent and drowned as his colleagues tried in vain to rescue him


According to a report from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), at least 41 journalists were imprisoned in China at the end of 2017.

Steven Butler, the CPJ’s Asia program coordinator said: “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.”

Lu Guang was in 1961, in Zhejiang Province, China and he had become a freelance photographer since 1993, notably highlighting stories on gold diggers, local coal miners, the SARS epidemic, drug addiction, Aids villages, and industrial pollution.

In 2005, he became the first photographer from China to be invited by the US Department of State as a visiting scholar.

At a regular news briefing in Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said he was not aware of the case surrounding Lu’s disappearance.

“He went to Kashgar alone,” Xu, who lives in New York City, told Reuters on Tuesday. “Later, it was both him and the friend who were taken away.”

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