- Title: With Uighur comic, Japanese manga artist aims to highlight everday 'suffering'
- Date: 27th December 2019
- Summary: SPEECH BUBBLE BEING TRANSLATED, READING (Chinese) "BECAUSE YOU ARE" SPEECH BUBBLE BEING TRANSLATED, READING (Chinese) "UIGHUR"
- Embargoed: 10th January 2020 11:51
- Keywords: China Japan Uighur Uyghur artist freedom of speech manga repression testimony
- Location: TOKYO, JAPAN / INTERNET / GRAPHICS
- City: TOKYO, JAPAN / INTERNET / GRAPHICS
- Country: Japan
- Topics: Race Relations / Ethnic Issues,Society/Social Issues
- Reuters ID: LVA007BBR1TTZ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Shackled, imprisoned and barred from her triplets - a young Uighur woman's plight at a Chinese detention camp in Xinjiang is depicted through an online Japanese manga comic that has gone viral.
At every stroke of her drawings, 50-year old manga artist Tomomi Shimizu wants the world to know what she describes as the "daily suffering" of China's Uighur Muslim minority and how little of it is known among ordinary people.
In panels of spare, black-and-white drawings, Shimizu tells the story of Mihrigul Tursun, a real Uighur woman who now lives in the United States and says she was beaten and detained in China for being a Uighur.
"I felt I should make a story for this (Uighur's plight) and I tried to keep this as simple and as understandable as possible," said Shimizu, who prefers to conceal her identity due to fear of harassment.
She uploaded "What Has Happened to Me" on her Twitter account on Aug. 31. Soon, messages started pouring in "like a waterfall," and it was retweeted 8,000 times in a few hours, and over 330,000 views on her social media page so far.
The United Nations and human rights groups estimate that between one to two million people, most of them ethnic Uighur Muslims, have been detained in harsh conditions in Xinjiang, China, as part of what Beijing calls an anti-terrorism campaign. China has repeatedly denied any mistreatment of Uighurs.
At a briefing in Washington in 2018, 30-year old Mihrigul Tursun told reporters she had experienced physical and psychological torture, including electrocution while strapped to a chair, during her 10 months internment in Xinjiang detention centers. Tursun, who wept and shook as a translator read her prepared statement, said her three children were taken from her while she was in detention and that her four-month-old son had died without explanation in government custody.
Reuters could not independently verify Tursun's account, though numerous former detainees have begun to share similar first-hand details with media.
Shimizu's manga, "What Has Happened to Me," has now been translated into 10 languages including English, Mandarin, Uighur and Arabic.
Lee Da-Ren, a 31-year-old Taiwanese internet engineer who lives in Japan, volunteered to translate the manga into Mandarin. Lee said he was deeply moved by the story.
"Manga is easy to read and (readers) can empathise more (with the characters). I wanted to spread this manga to more people. This is about spreading information to people rather than something entertaining. As a human being, I wanted to help those (Uighur) people," Lee said.
According to Japan Uyghur Association Chairman, Ilham Mahmut, the manga is welcomed by Uighurs around the world to educate their young ones.
Shimizu denied that her manga was a tool intended to smear China but feels that she couldn't turn a blind eye to the story.
Although known by her followers as a right-wing supporter, Shimizu said she doesn't mind the criticisms as she has never been "embarrassed" about what she wrote or posted in the past.
In 2015, she raised doubts about the grounds for criticism that China and South Korea level at Japan, describing former "comfort women" as "lying". "Comfort women" is a Japanese euphemism for the women, many of them Korean, who were forced to work in Japan's wartime military brothels.
Shimizu told Reuters that while she felt truly sorry for those women who had been taken against their will, she found dubious some of the accounts told by former comfort women.
She plans to hear more accounts from other Uighurs to which she hopes to publish as a book by next summer.
(Production: Akira Tomoshige, Hideto Sakai)
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