A Chinese award-winning photojournalist vanished in the restive northwest region of Xinjiang earlier this month after he was reportedly detained by security agents, his wife said.
The wife of Lu Guang said she lost contact with him on the night of November 3 when he was in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, a heavily policed region where authorities are accused of running a network of internment camps.
Lu, who lives in the United States, was visiting the region as a tourist and to teach and interact with local photographers, Xu Xiaoli said from New York, where she resides.
“I haven’t heard anything new,” Xu told AFP. “He had never been to Xinjiang before.”
The US embassy in Beijing said in a statement to AFP that it was “deeply concerned about reports of the detention of photojournalist Lu Guang by Chinese security officials”.
“We strongly condemn China’s worsening abuse of human rights,” it said.
Photographer Lu Guang has been forcibly disappeared since Nov. 3. Here are some photos he took showing the human cost of China's economic development. pic.twitter.com/x7E6OBBc2W
— Yaqiu Wang 王亚秋 (@Yaqiu) November 27, 2018
“We continue to call on China to allow all individuals to express their views without fear of retribution and for journalists to do their jobs without interference,” the statement said.
Lu’s 25-year career as a photographer has produced many award-winning photos which delve into the dark side of China’s economic development and societal changes, documenting industrial pollution, worker abuse, AIDS-plagued villages, and the illegal export of African timber to China.
A World Press Photo awards winner, Lu had planned to travel from Xinjiang to southwestern Sichuan province on November 5 and rendezvous with a friend, who was unable to reach him, his wife said in a statement posted on Twitter.
She later heard through a friend that Lu had been held by state security and then taken to the city of Kashgar, a report which she said was confirmed to her by authorities in Lu’s hometown city of Yongkang, Zhejiang province.
“I’m extremely worried, and hoping for his safe return home as soon as possible!” Xu said in her Twitter statement.
Yongkang police told AFP they were unaware of the situation and calls to Xinjiang’s propaganda department went unanswered. Someone who picked up the phone at the police department in Kashgar hung up after hearing the call was from AFP.
Xinjiang, home to the mainly Muslim Uighur minority, has undergone a security crackdown prompted by clashes that have killed hundreds in recent years.
Up to a million Uighurs and other Turkic-speaking minority groups have been placed in political re-education camps in the region, according estimates cited by a United Nations panel.
Foreign journalists travelling to the region are frequently detained and followed by police to prevent and obstruct reporting on the internment camps and treatment of Uighurs.
The US embassy said Washington remains “deeply alarmed by the Chinese government’s crackdown in Xinjiang” and is “committed to promoting accountability for those who commit human rights violations and abuses, including by considering targeted measures against Xinjiang officials.”