Uyghur Actor Confirmed Detained in China’s Xinjiang

Qeyum Muhammad, known as the ‘grandmaster of performers,’ disappeared from public life three years ago.
2021.08.09
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Uyghur Actor Confirmed Detained in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur actor and professor Qeyum Muhammad in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of Weibo

A revered Uyghur actor and acting teacher has been detained for three years in northwestern China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, RFA confirmed last week through sources in the region.

The case of Qeyum Muhammad, known as the “grandmaster of performers” for teaching younger Uyghur performing artists and comedians, was uncovered by the Uyghuryar Foundation, a Norway-based Uyghur advocacy and aid organization which maintains a list of detained Uyghur intellectuals.

The Uyghuryar Foundation has been tracking the actor since his sudden disappearance from the stage, forums, and venues in 2017. He worked as an associate professor at the Xinjiang Arts Institute in the XUAR’s capital Urumqi (in Chinese, Wulumuqi) and was a mentor to the stars when he vanished from public life.

Through calls to people in the XUAR who know Qeyum, RFA has confirmed that that the actor has been in captivity for three years.

A staff member at the Xinjiang Arts Institute, who declined to be identified so as to speak freely, said that Qeyum had been detained for some time, but did not say when or why he was investigated and detained.

“I would not call it a detention but an investigation, but I do not know much about the reason behind it,” said the staff member.

A second official at the art institute confirmed that Qeyum had worked there and offered to give an RFA reporter a phone number to get more information about him, but no one answered when the number was called.

A third art institute official who oversees political affairs at the college said that authorities had taken away Qeyum three years ago, but added that he did not know what happened to him afterwards.

“I do not know how many years he was sentenced to, but it’s been more than two or three years since he was detained, the official told RFA. “I do not know the reason he was detained.”

The jailing of Uyghur cultural leaders and intellectuals, which has intensified since 2016, is part of a set of policies has been deemed by the U.S. and others as constituting genocide. The abuses also include forced labor at factories and farms, forced birth control, and the detention of up to 1.8 million Uyghurs in a network of internment camps.

Reported by Shohret Hoshur for RFA's Uyghur Service. Translated Mamatjan Juma. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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