Documentary, News, Photojournalism

Chinese photographer Lu Guang disappears in Xinjiang

Development and Pollution by Lu Guang, commissioned by Greenpeace International. April 9, 2005. Most factories in Hainan Industrial Park of Wuhai City in Inner Mongolia are high-energy consuming and high-pollution producing. China is now the world’s second-largest economy. Its economic development has consumed lots of energy and generated plenty of pollution. A habit of directly discharging unprocessed industrial sewage, exhaust gas and waste material has led to pollution of farmlands, grasslands, and drinking water as well as the ocean and the air. Over the past 10 years, factories have been moved from the country’s east to its central and western parts, thus greatly expanding the polluted area and increasing the severity of the situation. Although the environmental protection administration has shut down many small enterprises with serious pollution emission, some still continue to discharge contaminants illegally. Some have adopted covert operations, such as releasing the smoke and gas waste at night. The sewage channel is embedded into the river and ocean for discharging pollution. Western factories have large evaporation ponds to store sewage, but the sewage sinks into the ground, thus polluting the water source. Minerals, such as coal and iron, are expanded to large-scale predatory strip mine exploitation from the original underground mining. Grassland has been turned into desert. Fertile farmland has given way to barren mountains. Herdsmen no longer have grassland. Farmers have lost their farms, their own homelands destroyed, thus causing the villagers to become displaced. Winds carry the exposed coal dust and sand, causing smog. Smog, in turn, forces middle and primary schools to close. Flights get delayed. The highway gets shut down. The number of hospital patients with respiratory disease goes up. Food and drinking water is polluted, which leads to cancer, so common China has seen the emergence of ‘cancer villages’. China’s environmental pollution has already exerted great threats to people’s life and security. Photo courtesy of the World Press Photo Foundation

The award-winning documentary photographer has been missing for three weeks since visiting Xinjiang in northwest China, says his wife

Three-time World Press Photo winner Lu Guang has been detained by national security offices during a visit to Xinjiang, according to his wife Xu Xiaoli, who last heard from him on 03 November. Lu Guang is a US green card holder whose documentary projects often focus on social, environmental and economic issues in China.

According to reports, Lu flew to Urumqi, the capital city of Xinjiang region, on 23 October, where he had been invited by a friend to attend several photography events. He had planned to fly to Sichuan to meet another friend on 05 November, but on arrival, the friend was unable to find him. Lu’s friend contacted Lu’s wife, Xu, to find out his whereabouts, but she had not heard from him since 03 November. Xu then contacted the wife of Lu’s host in Xinjiang, and was told that both he and Lu had been taken away by national security.

Xinjiang is a region that has recently become notorious for tight security controls and heavy police presence, amid widely-criticised operations to tackle what these authorities say is a growing radicalism among the Muslim ethic Uighur community.

Xu told the BBC that she did not know whether her husband had done anything to provoke government anger. On 26 November she tweeted, “December 4th is our 20th wedding anniversary. He was meant to celebrate with us together”. “I am extremely anxious, I hope he will return home safely.”

Development and Pollution by Lu Guang, commissioned by Greenpeace International. September 14, 2010. Wuhai Chemical Plant produces PVC products that create lots of poisonous waste material and sewage, which gets dumped along the coast of the Yellow River. China is now the world’s second-largest economy. Its economic development has consumed lots of energy and generated plenty of pollution. A habit of directly discharging unprocessed industrial sewage, exhaust gas and waste material has led to pollution of farmlands, grasslands, and drinking water as well as the ocean and the air. Over the past 10 years, factories have been moved from the country’s east to its central and western parts, thus greatly expanding the polluted area and increasing the severity of the situation. Although the environmental protection administration has shut down many small enterprises with serious pollution emission, some still continue to discharge contaminants illegally. Some have adopted covert operations, such as releasing the smoke and gas waste at night. The sewage channel is embedded into the river and ocean for discharging pollution. Western factories have large evaporation ponds to store sewage, but the sewage sinks into the ground, thus polluting the water source. Minerals, such as coal and iron, are expanded to large-scale predatory strip mine exploitation from the original underground mining. Grassland has been turned into desert. Fertile farmland has given way to barren mountains. Herdsmen no longer have grassland. Farmers have lost their farms, their own homelands destroyed, thus causing the villagers to become displaced. Winds carry the exposed coal dust and sand, causing smog. Smog, in turn, forces middle and primary schools to close. Flights get delayed. The highway gets shut down. The number of hospital patients with respiratory disease goes up. Food and drinking water is polluted, which leads to cancer, so common China has seen the emergence of ‘cancer villages’. China’s environmental pollution has already exerted great threats to people’s life and security.Photo courtesy of the World Press Photo Foundation