Authorities arrested Behtiyar Sadir in mid-October for posting photos on WeChat.
By Shohret Hoshur for RFA Uyghur
December 21, 2022
Uyghur Behtiyar Sadir is a national-level health coach and member of Xinjiang’s Association of Health and Nutrition.
Authorities in China’s far-western Xinjiang region have detained a well-known Uyghur nutritionist for messages he posted on social media, according to Sweden-based siblings and police in the region’s capital Urumqi.
Behtiyar Sadir, 46, a national-level health coach and member of Xinjiang’s Association of Health and Nutrition, went missing in mid-October when authorities placed Urumqi and other regional population centers under a strict lockdown to contain an outbreak of the coronavirus, his younger brother, Seydijan Sadir, and elder sister, Munewer Sadir, told RFA Uyghur.
Sadir, the father of three children, had suddenly stopped using the WeChat social messaging service and updating information on his company website, which alerted them to his disappearance.
The siblings said they lost contact with their brother in 2017, when Chinese authorities began apprehending the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and interning them in “re-education” camps to purportedly prevent religious extremism and terrorism.
“We were able to observe his activities over his WeChat,” said Munewer Sadir. “Although we had no contact with him, seeing his WeChat activities, we felt satisfied that he was safe.”
Munewer Sadir said she waited for more than a week after Sadir disappeared from social media on Oct. 13th, thinking that he might have traveled somewhere, “but I also wondered how he could go outside when everyone was at their houses because of the lockdown.”
“Then I began to suspect his disappearance,” she added.
The siblings then began inquiring about Sadir’s whereabouts through acquaintances in Urumqi, but had no luck, they said.
RFA contacted an officer at the Hotan Road Police Station in Urumqi to ask about Sadir’s status and learned that he had been arrested “on suspicion of revealing state secrets.” The officer was unable to provide further details and referred questions about where Sadir’s status to the city’s Qarlighach District Police Station.
“The Qarlighach police station arrested him,” he said.
An officer at the Qarlighach station said he was present when police arrested Sadir “along with other Uyghurs” during a night raid, but did not receive a formal notification about the reason for his detention.
“It seems he took photos on the spot and sent them via his WeChat, which is why he was arrested and will be investigated,” the officer said, suggesting the images may have been related to the harsh restrictions residents were forced to endure during the COVID-19 lockdown.
The officer said he had no information about where Sadir is being held and was unable to provide any further details about the other Uyghurs who were detained along with him.
A well-known nutritionist with more than 10 years experience, Sadir was accredited by regional and national health certification boards and had adopted the moniker “Coach Bahtiyar” for his popular online lectures, classroom training modules, and eponymous line of nutritional products.
When Sadir’s business was thriving, he traveled to Europe and to the United States in 2014, 2015, and 2016, but was never targeted for arrest by authorities in Xinjiang when they began detaining Uyghurs who had traveled abroad in “re-education” camps in 2017, his siblings said.
However, Saydijan Sadir said his brother had been under “constant surveillance” during 2017 and 2018, and had to report his every move to police.
“I obtained some information from my acquaintances in our homeland,” said Saydijan Sadir. “The police surveilled my brother for two years from 2017 to 2018. They did not take him to the [internment] camps or arrest him, but they prohibited his movements and ordered him not to leave his neighborhood.”
Sadir’s siblings said that because they had been forced to cut contact with him, it was only through friends in Urumqi that they learned of their father’s death in 2021.
“When my father passed away last year, my brother could not give us any information about his death as he was afraid of getting into trouble,” his sister said. “We only heard about my father’s death from others.
The siblings said that Sadir had managed to build a successful business despite becoming disabled as a child.
“The doctors cut off his right hand when he was little after he was burned in an accident, so he was [able to thrive despite being] disabled,” Saydijan Sadir said.
Translated by RFA Uyghur. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin. Edited by Joshua Lipes.