Japanese artist’s story of Xinjiang woman’s experience highlights plight of Muslim minority in China
A manga depicting the plight of an Uighur woman who was detained and tortured in China has clocked up millions of views and spawned versions in several languages.
The popularity of “What has happened to me,” by the Japanese manga artist Tomomi Shimizu, coincides with rising global anger over China’s treatment of the Uighurs, a Muslim minority based in the country’s northwest border region of Xinjiang.
This week, the Guardian and other media media organisations revealed that China is holding more than a million people from the Uighur community and other Muslim minorities without trial.
The China Cables, a leak of classified documents from within the Communist party, appear to provide the first official confirmation that the camps were designed by Beijing as brainwashing internment centres and not, as Chinese authorities have claimed, vocational education and training centres.
Shimizu’s short manga, which has been translated into English, Chinese, Uighur and other languages, tells the story of Mihrigul Tursun, a Uighur woman who was detained three times by the Chinese authorities after returning from Egypt.
The account includes Tursun’s time living in Egypt, where she gave birth to triplets, and her accounts of being tortured and detained in China on three separate occasions between 2015 and 2017.
Tursun, who last year testified before the US congress about human rights abuses at Xinjiang detention centres, said she had been deprived of sleep in an overcrowded cell that was lit day and night, tied to a chair and repeatedly tortured. She said her eldest son died in mysterious circumstances at a hospital in Urumqi while she was in custody.
She lost contact with her husband, whom she believes had returned from Egypt to China to look for her and was sentenced to 16 years in prison. She now lives in the US with her surviving son and daughter.
Shimizu’s manga has attracted about 2.5m views and been shared more than 86,000 times since it appeared on Twitter in August, according to the Kyodo news agency.
Shimizu first learned about the plight of Muslim minorities in China from members of Japan’s small Uighur community and released her first manga on the subject, “No one says the country’s name,” in April this year.
“Despite (China) being a neighbouring country, it is full of things that are unknown. Telling people about them through manga is my mission,” Shimizu told Kyodo.