Raising your voice against authority is inviting the wrath of those in power. Once such outspoken critic of China is Lu Guang, an award-winning photojournalist. He has published pics depicting the suffering of the Chinese people due to drug addiction, HIV, unhygienic conditions and the like, as also the environmental rape at the hands of big industries.
This obviously didn’t go down well with those in power and one fine day this photographer was found missing. According to Guang’s wife, Xu Xiaoli, she hasn’t heard from her husband since November 3, 2018. As per his itinerary, Guang was to fly to Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital, on October 23 for some photography events and further on to Sichuan to participate in a charity event as also to meet his friend Chen.
When Guang failed to contact Chen, he immediately contacted Xu about his whereabouts. Xu was clueless, but she immediately contacted the wife of whoever had invited Guang to Urumqi. It came as an utter shock to her, when she found that both Guang and his host have been taken away by the national security. This was later confirmed by local officers in Guang’s hometown, Zhejiang.
Till date, nothing is known about Guang’s fate. According to Xu, she has not received any notice of his arrest. In fact, she has even been unable to get through to Xinjiang police despite her repeated attempts. Xu wrote on Twitter, “…it’s our 20th wedding anniversary (falling next week). We should be celebrating it together. I can only hope for his safe return.”
It is speculated that this may be the result of Xinjiang’s dealing with an iron hand the growing radicalism among the ethnic Uighur Muslim community, what with its tight security controls and heavy surveillance. And anybody criticizing the government’s action or presenting negative stories about China is detained.
Guang came on the wrong side of the law for speaking out his mind in an interview last year, when he stated, “The reality in China is you never know if you’re going to get into trouble because there are no written rules.” He further incensed the authorities when his photographs exposed ‘AIDS villages’, where out of 3,000 people, 678 people got infected with HIV after selling their blood. Of these 200 have died. To top it all, these pics also won at the 2004 World Press Photo competition.
Efforts are on to force China to disclose Guang’s whereabouts. Taking the initiative is Cédric Alviani, Director, East Asia Bureau of Reporters Without Border, who has called on China to not only disclose Guang’s whereabouts, but also “guarantee journalists’ freedom of movement and security, including Xinjiang Province.”