Shimizu Tomomi’s Art Testimony

written by Yi Xiaocuo

Artist Shimizu Tomomi (清水ともみ) rendered Mihrigul Tursun‘s testimony given at US Congressional hearing in Manga form. Mihrigul’s testimony gave accounts of various torture and gender based violence inside one of the ‘re-education camps’ in Xinjiang. It is never easy to gather the courage to speak on the trauma and inhumane treatment from an unjust system, especially for Uyghurs; this could mean retaliation to their families from the Chinese government. After her ordeal in the camp, she lost her oldest son, and her husband is still missing. She is now living with her children in the US struggling to avoid harassment from Chinese spies and nationalists.

Despite all the horror she has gone through, the China Foreign Ministry rejected her testimonies as false and accused her of “lying to get US asylum.” It is worth noting that the Chinese authorities have turned Mihrigul’s case into a “she said he said” situation, a familiar scenario in rape culture. While discrediting Mihrigul’s testimonies, the state doesn’t permit international investigation and fact-finding agencies in the region either (not including the guided tours heavily orchestrated by Chinese Propaganda Organs). This state-level denial exposes its fear of losing power over what stories to tell the world and its own people.

This is why Shimizu Tomomi’s art testimony becomes important in this documentation project. It is a choice ethically made to expose the crushing power a state can impose on vulnerable individuals; to see through the political game of post-truth playing with numbers, practicality, and coded language eluding consequences. Shimizu Tomomi’s art shows us the situated knowledge of the intimate, subjective, and deep dimension of horror in China’s concentration camps, which is everything that state power desperately tries to hide from the public.

Originally published on Shimizu Tomomi’s personal website. Shared with the artist’s permission.

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