The cross-shaped prison on the Island of Fire
The Green Island Correctional Prison of the Ministry of National Defense was set up between 1972 and 1987. Today, it stands at No. 20, General Rock, Gongguan Village, Ludao Township, Taitung County (the same as the site of the former New Life Correction Center of the Taiwan Provincial Security Command: No. 15, Liuma Ditch, 6th Neighborhood, Gongguan Village, currently the Green Island White Terror Memorial Park), an area of roughly two hectares. Plans to build a modern prison, the “Green Island Correctional Prison,” were made after the “Taiyuan Incident” that occurred in Taiyuan Prison in Taitung. It was constructed on the west of the New Life Correction Center that was already defunct at the time. The prison held political dissidents with heavy sentences and special cases in the 1970s and 1980s of the period of martial law.
Green Island sits in the Pacific Ocean approximately 33 kilometers east of Taitung. With a land area of merely 16.2 square kilometers, it has a population of about 2,700. Geologically, the island is made up of volcanic materials, which explains its old name “Island of Fire.” After the war, trees were planted all over the island in 1949 to make it greener, and the name was thus changed to “Green Island.” Green Island is surrounded by the sea on all sides, and because of this geographical trait, the “Island of Fire Homeless Shelter” was established here from 1911 to 1919 during the period of Japanese rule to isolate criminals. Here, the inmates raised livestock for a living and were left to their own devices.
After the war, the Nationalist Government set up three prisons and correctional facilities on Green Island:
The lost years of political victims
The Green Island Correctional Prison was a typical high-walled closed-off prison with the mountains at its back and the sea before it. The prison was called the Eight Trigrams Tower due to its radial cross-shaped design modeled on the Pennsylvania system, making centralized monitoring easy. The prison consisted of 4 two-story blocks, divided into 8 sections, each with 52 cells of varying sizes. Most of the prisoners were kept on the first floor, while the second floor was used to hold prisoners with special statuses. There were 4 yards within the prison where the prisoners could be let out of their cells. The prison was also equipped with a rehabilitation and first-aid room, solitary cells, kitchens, storage areas and isolation rooms. There was also a visiting room in the administration building.
▲ Side view of the cross-shaped, radiating architecture of the Oasis Village. (Source: Taitung Tourism website)
After the completion of Green Island Correctional Prison in 1972, the first batch of more than 300 prisoners was transferred here from Jingmei Detention Center and Taiyuan Prison. Most of these political dissidents received sentences of more than five years. At its peak, more than 500 prisoners were incarcerated in the Green Island Correctional Prison. Prisoners of this facility included Kuo Chen-chun, Chung Chien-hsun, Tsai Tsai-yuan, Bo Yang, Huang Yingwu, Chen Yingzhen, Ko Chi-hua, Chen San-hsing, Chen Sanwang, Chen Mingfa, Yang Bi-chuan, Wei Ting-chao, Shih Ming-teh and Annette Lu.
During the White Terror period, the Oasis Village held prisoners from different political camps. There were “white hats” fighting for Taiwan’s independence, and “red hats” advocating socialism and Taiwan’s unification with China. Famous inmates included Bo Yang, Kuo Chen-chun, Chen Yingzhen, Ko Chi-hua etc. According to the accounts of the prisoners, each cell was about 13 square meters in size and had to hold around 10 inmates. Due to the high humidity and strong sea breeze, coupled with the lack of medical facilities, prisoners easily developed various diseases such as arthritis, and there were 54 inmates that died in the prison due to illness. “In that era, how many mothers shed tears during the long nights, for their children imprisoned on this island?” Bo Yang’s writing, inscribed on the Human Rights Memorial Plaque, is a testimony to the years victims of political persecution lost on that faraway Island of Fire.
▲ Wax figures in the memorial park designed according to the sketches made by Ouyang Jianhua, one of the prisoners of the time. The figures recreate the conditions of incarceration in those days. (Source: Taitung Tourism website)
From a political prison with no regard for human rights to a memorial park with human rights at its core
In 1975, after the passing away of Chiang Kai-Shek, an amnesty of prisoners was announced, and more than a hundred political prisoners were released for various reasons and on various conditions, such as release on parole, early completion of training, and the need for medical treatment outside the prison. In 1987, when martial law was lifted, the more than 30 political prisoners still in the Green Island Correctional Prison were moved to the Taiwan Lyudao Prison in Zhongliao Village to continue serving their sentences. The Oasis Village was renamed the Green Island Prison of the Ministry of National Defense, and was placed under the jurisdiction of the Green Island Command of the Taiwan Garrison Command in 1988. On May 5, 1990, Wang Sing-nan, who was involved in a mail bomb case, was granted parole, after having served a term of 13 years and 5 months. When he stepped out the gates of the Green Island Correctional Prison, he became the last political prisoner to leave Green Island, signaling the end of the era of Taiwan's political prisoners. The Ministry of Justice took over the prison from 1997 to 2000 and named it the Oasis Branch of the Lyudao Prison.
In 1997, 16 legislators including Shih Ming-teh proposed a motion to have the Oasis Village preserved and converted into a history museum. In 2000, the Ministry of Justice transferred jurisdiction to the Tourism Bureau of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications. A Human Rights Monument was set up in 2001, and on December 10, 2002, the Green Island Human Rights Cultural Park was officially launched on Human Rights Day itself. In 2006, ownership of the park was transferred from the Tourism Bureau of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications to the Council for Cultural Affairs of the Executive Yuan (now the Ministry of Culture). The name of the park has been changed several times over the years. It gained official recognition as a cultural heritage site in the cultural landscape category in 2014. In 2018, it was officially named “Green Island White Terror Memorial Park.”
The memorial park primarily preserves the three incarceration sites used during the martial law period: the “New Life Correction Center of the Taiwan Provincial Security Command/Taiwan Garrison Command” (Zhuangjing Camp) that operated from 1951 to 1965; the “Green Island Correctional Prison of the Ministry of National Defense” (Oasis Village) that operated from 1972 to 1987; and the “3rd Division of the Correctional Corps of the Taiwan Garrison Command/Green Island Vocational Training Center” (Jinde Villa) that operated from 1965 to 2002. The park occupies an area of 32 hectares beginning from the Gongguan Nose in Gongguan Village, Ludao Township, covering areas such as the General Rock, the Green Island Human Rights Cultural Park, Zhuangjing Camp, Jinde Villa, and stretches on until the Public Cemetery of the 13th Squadron at Swallow Cave. These areas record the historical changes and the spatial transformations that form the backdrop of the development of human rights.
▲ Entrance to Oasis Village. (Source: National Human Rights Museum)
魏廷朝： 受刑人每週只能發一封信，限兩百字以內。接見隔玻璃窗通電話，以三十分鐘為限。不過綠島交通不便，受刑人一年最多只有三、四次接見的機會。由於空氣潮濕，海風強烈，醫療設備與醫師缺乏，受刑人容易罹患關節炎以及其他疾病。 楊碧川： 我那房可以住十人，但沒有住滿，獄方不讓你整群人混熟，過一段時間就調房…他們（獄方）常常會藉故把你叫去，假裝問話，然後要你做抓耙仔。以前只要被單獨叫出去，回到牢房後大概有一個禮拜的時間，大家都會對你有戒心，沒人要跟你講話…國民黨會將白帽仔（台獨）跟紅帽仔（社會主義統一）兩派的人關在一起，不會是清一色的…統獨的對立其實是在綠島分得比較清楚。 郭振純： 乍看牢房裡空間較大，尚且臨海，應當與蒸籠之刑絕緣，可是冬天一過事情大了！監舍貼近高牆，不但擋風而且與沙灘齊放輻射熱雙面夾攻，使體弱、年老的難友喘不過氣。廖啟川首當其衝熱死了，成為綠洲山莊首位冤魂。
|游觀創意策略有限公司，《臺灣白色恐怖時期相關史蹟點調查案總結報告書》（臺北：國家人權博物館，2015） 陳儀深等，〈楊碧川先生訪談記錄〉，《白色跫音： 政治受難者及相關人物口述歷史》（臺北：文化建設委員會，2011） 魏廷朝，《臺灣人權報告書1949-1996》（臺北：文英堂，1997） 郭振純，《耕甘藷園的人》（臺北市：玉山社，2008）|