A renowned photojournalist whose images have shed light on the challenges of China's economic rise hasn't been heard from in almost a month and is believed to be in state custody. Lu Guang, a first-place winner at the 2004 World Press Photo awards, had been meeting with photographers in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang province, when he last contacted his wife on Nov. 3. She became worried when the US green card holder failed to meet a friend in Sichuan province two days later, Xu Xiaoli tells NBC News from New York, where her husband lives in addition to Beijing. She contacted the wife of the photographer who had invited Lu to Urumqi, who told her both men were taken away by state security. "The authorities haven't informed me of his whereabouts," Xu adds of Lu, though the Hong Kong Free Press reports he may have been taken to the city of Kashgar.
It's unclear if Lu's detention is tied to his work—his photos showcase China's pollution, AIDS patients, and drug and worker abuse—but "he believed, after confronting the faces of the destitute, that there were things that people should know," Xu tells the Guardian. "At the very least, he believed that [his photos] might motivate them to help others, to trigger change and make things better." The US embassy in Beijing says it's "deeply concerned" by the detention reports, and "we strongly condemn China's worsening abuse of human rights." Meanwhile, the Committee to Protect Journalists calls Lu's detention "a high-profile illustration of the cruel and arbitrary way that China detains journalists and other civilians in Xinjiang." (Read more China stories.)