As photos of a woman posing nude beside a sacred lake in Tibet were going viral on the Chinese internet, sparking considerable outrage from Tibetans, local authorities were apparently already dealing with the situation, with reports online that the photographer has been punished with 10 days’ detention.
The controversial images were spread online after Weibo user “YouchumDolkar” posted them to her account on Monday night. They show a young woman posing for pictures around the remote Yamdrok Lake, one of three holy lakes in Tibet. Some of the pictures show the woman wearing very little clothing, while others show her wearing nothing at all. In the text of the original post, the photographer says that the model was visiting Tibet in the prime of her life, and wanted to leave behind some memories in this holy place.
However, “YouchumDolkar” didn’t think that showing off her ass was the most respectful way of doing so. “An amazing photographer plus an amazing model reveal that they have no basic cultural or moral understanding,” she wrote. Many netizens agreed with her condemning the woman for disrespecting Tibetan culture and tarnishing a holy place with her naked bum.
Yesterday evening, a Beijing News reporter visited the Langkazi County Public Security Bureau to ask about the incident. Local officials said that on the same day that the photos began to spread online, they received a public tip and arrested the photographer involved, putting him under detention for 10 days.
This report of the photographer’s detention was initially echoed by both People’s Daily and Xinhua. However, they have since flip-flopped saying that “local police refute media reports that the photographer has been detained for ten days.”
Meanwhile, earlier Thursday morning, a reporter at the Legal Evening News, talked with a local Public Security Bureau official who denied taking the photographer into custody, or even carrying out any punishment whatsoever. Later in the afternoon, TIME called the local PSB and were told “We do not know anything.”
The photographer, identified by netizens as “Yu Feixiong,” had shared the pictures with friends on WeChat, that post drew attention and was posted to Weibo where more people saw it, igniting the controversy. The photographer has his own Weibo page where he posts pictures of women posing around Tibet, all clothed. He did not answer phone calls or messages left by the Beijing News reporter.
However, the journalist did speak to one of Yu’s friends. who said that the photographer had not meant to offend and that the incident had caused his buddy serious mental anguish. “He really did not mean to violate local customs, some netizens have just blown this completely out of proportion,” he said.
This view was echoed by Can Can, a professional model and Yu’s high school classmate, who told TIME: “I can’t contact him, either. He is always a kind and normal person. Before he moved to Tibet, he was based in Hangzhou. He’s atheist. It’s hard to say whether he’s right or wrong this time. I seldom see him taking other naked photos.”
A long-time Tibetan tourism worker surnamed Yang also talked to the reporter, saying that the photos had been shared on a WeChat group of people involved in the Tibetan tourism industry. Many of them were shocked and angered by the images. Yang said that considering the fact that Yu has worked in Tibet for over two years taking photos, he should have known better.
Yang didn’t blame the woman in the photos, who he said was a tourist who hadn’t known any better, but he urged visitors to familiarize themselves with local customs before coming to the “Roof of the World.”
This scandal reminds us of last year’s most memorable sexy pics at inappropriate place controversy. On May 17th, 2015, pictures of a panty-less woman straddling the head of an ancient marble dragon inside the Forbidden City caused a bit of a stir on Weibo. The photographer, Wang Dong, who goes by the moniker “WANIMAL” (NSFW), repeatedly insisted that the photo shoot was an act of pure artistic creation that did not affect anyone else.
Nearly a month after the pics went viral, the Palace Museum finally wrapped up its investigation, deciding to add hundreds of new cameras and implement stricter security protocols so that this kind of thing would never happen again.
Which has apparently had the effect of forcing China’s nude photographers to snap images in more remote locations.
[Images via Weibo]