Lu Guang is an award-winning Chinese photojournalist and has done a lot of documentary projects highlighting social, economic and environmental issues and injustices. This renowned photojournalist’s exposures on pollution and environmental destruction have long been underreported in China due to the government’s penchant to mete out punishment to such activists. Due to his work documenting the above issues, Lu Guang may have fallen victim to the censorship that the Chinese government uses to silence activists and people who shed light on injustices in China.
Why did he disappear in late 2018?
Lu Guang was reported missing in early November 2018 with his wife Xu Xiaoli claiming that national security officers took him away, which the Chinese police have since confirmed. He was arrested in Xinjiang province, where he had gone visiting, but no reasons were given for his arrest. While the suspicion is that he was arrested because the authorities feared he was there to document the indoctrination camps1 where thousands of Muslims are being detained, the photojournalist was however there to attend several photography events. He was to do so, then meet a friend, Mr. Chen, in Sichuan. He did not manage to get to Sichuan.
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Why do so many journalists disappear in Xinjiang?
The Xinjiang region where atrocities, surveillance2 and control by the government of the Uighur3 Muslim community is also known for extreme censorship of these control measures where investigative reporters are often arrested for attempting to document the events happening in this region.
Lu covered these controversial issues
Using photography to highlight issues in China has been Lu Guang’s self-driven initiative since 1993. In 2004 he won the World Press Photo Competition4 for his work in exposing AIDS villages in China where so many people contracted HIV as a result of unsafe procedures used in giving blood. These poor villagers were selling their blood to earn a living. This subject, among other societal problems such as pollution and the destruction of the environment by industries, is an issue that the government considers sensitive and is hence avoided by the Chinese media. His work consists of photo stories on local coal miners, drug addiction especially along the Sino-Burmese border, gold diggers, the Henan Province’s Aids villages5, bilharzia’s medical effects, industrial pollution and the adverse effect of the Qinghai-Tibet railway6.
In July 2010, Chinese photographer Lu Guang documented the oil spill in the city of Dalian. The pictures won a World Press Photo award in 2011.
Video: Interview with Lu Guang, 2011
6 min 40 sec
About Lu Guang
The photojournalist was born in 1961 in China’s Zhejiang province. He developed a passion for photography as a factory worker in Yongkang County in 1980 and held a camera for the first time. This fueled his desire to pursue photography, and in 1993, he enrolled for classes at Beijing’s Fine Arts Academy of Tsinghua University. At the same time, Lu Guang started freelancing and developing major self-initiated documentary projects focusing on social, environmental and health issues. He has also won the Henri Nannen Prize in Photography (2008) award in Germany, the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund in 2009. In 2010, he received a National Geographic Photography Grant.