TOKYO (Reuters) – A Japanese artist whose manga about a Uighur woman has gone viral wants to use the sheer power of her work to raise awareness of the "daily suffering" suffered by the majority Muslim Chinese minority, she told Reuters.
With "What Happened to Me," a manga that has been translated into 10 languages - including Mandarin, Uighur, and English – and viewed over 330,000 times online, artist Tomomi Shimizu took advantage of an issue that many Western countries see as evidence of rights abuse. human beings in Beijing.
In panels of spare black and white drawings, Shimizu tells the story of Mihrigul Tursun, a true Uighur who now lives in the United States and says she was beaten and detained in China for being Uighur.
“The issue of Uighurs is well known among people who like politics. But little is known among the general public. The difference is striking, ”Shimizu, 50, told Reuters in an interview.
"I decided to use manga for this purpose because I believe that manga has the power to convey things to people in an easy to understand way."
Shimizu, who wrote another comic book about Uighurs, appears to be no stranger to politics, having expressed support in his Twitter account for problems generally supported by Japan's right.
The United Nations and human rights groups estimate that between 1 million and 2 million people, mostly Uighur Muslims, were detained in harsh conditions in northwest China's Xinjiang region as part of what Beijing calls the anti-terror campaign.
China said Xinjiang faces a threat from Islamist militants and separatists.
Beijing rejects accusations of mistreatment and denies mass internment, saying it is simply seeking to end extremism and violence in Xinjiang through education and is offering Uighurs better job prospects with professional training.
China's Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Chinese government accused Tursun of spreading lies about his time in Xinjiang and vehemently denied his accusations of mistreatment.
FILE PHOTO: The cover of the comic titled "What Happened to Me – A Testimony of a Uighur Woman", drawn by Japanese artist Tomomi Shimizu, is seen in this leaflet image obtained by Reuters on December 17, 2019. TOMOMI SHIMIZU @ SWIM_SHU / Press Release via Reuters
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Shimizu has sometimes expressed opposition to China, but says he is not trying to use the Uighur issue to defame China.
She tweeted that China wants to see the island of Okinawa in southern Japan become independent.
In 2015, she raised questions about the reasons for criticism at China and South Korea level in Japan, describing former “women of comfort” – a Japanese euphemism for women, many of them Korean, who were forced to work in brothels. Japan's military during the war – how to "lie".
Shimizu told Reuters that while feeling sorry for women who were taken against her will, she found some of the accounts counted by former comfort women dubious.
Shimizu based his manga story on what he learned by watching Tursun's video-recorded testimony.
In the comics, Tursun is detained by the Chinese authorities despite not committing any crime. She is separated from her 45-day triplets and tortured with electric rods.
She is on probation only to discover that one of her triplets has died in government custody. She is later incarcerated again in a room so crowded that detainees must take turns to lie down.
After a third arrest, she asks why she has to face so many difficulties. One employee says, "It's because you are Uighur."
"There are people who need help now, people who have a hard time every day," Shimizu said.
She sent "What happened to me" on her Twitter account on August 31st. Soon, the messages began to appear "like a waterfall" and were retweeted 8,000 times in a few hours.
"It is undoubtedly that Shimizu's manga played an invaluable role in letting the world know about the Uighurs," said Ilham Mahmut, president of the Uighghur Association of Japan.
FILE PHOTO: A comic book page titled "What Happened to Me – A Testimony of a Uighur Woman," drawn by Japanese artist Tomomi Shimizu, is seen in this leaflet image obtained by Reuters on December 17, 2019. TOMOMI SHIMIZU @ SWIM_SHU / Press Release via Reuters
Lee Da-Ren, a Taiwanese living in Japan, offered to translate Shimizu's work into Mandarin.
"By taking the form of manga, the story is so easy to read and yet so penetrating," Lee said.
Additional report by Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Written by Kiyoshi Takenaka Editing by David Dolan, Robert Birsel
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