Authorities informed relatives of award-winning photographer Lu Guang, whose work focuses unsparingly on the harshest realities of life in China, that he was arrested in Kashgar city in the country's far west region of Xinjiang, his wife Xu Xiaoli told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Xu, who lives in New York, said police contacted family members Wednesday. They have yet to receive a written notice with his charges, which are unclear.
Lu disappeared while travelling in Xinjiang on Nov. 3, according to Xu. He had connected with photographers in Urumqi, the capital, one week before and was scheduled to see a friend in Sichuan province on Nov. 5, but he never showed up for the meeting.
Lu won first prize in the prestigious World Press Photo contest for a series on poor Chinese villagers who became infected with HIV after selling their own blood to eke out a living.
His photos tackle gritty subjects like pollution and industrial environmental destruction - issues traditionally avoided by Chinese media because they risk punishment for exposing societal problems that the government may consider sensitive.
A stifling security apparatus has been imposed on Xinjiang in recent years as the government combats what it calls terrorist threats from the region's predominantly Muslim ethnic Uighur and Kazakh populations.
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