On May 17, 1951, the first group of more than 1,000 political prisoners was sent to the “Freshman Disciplinary Camp” on Green Island, also called “New Life Camp,“ effectively marking the beginning of the White Terror era. With two people to a group, handcuffs were placed on one person’s left wrist and the other person’s right wrist during the sultry, tumultuous boat ride from Taiwan proper. Not sure of their whereabouts, the prisoners disembarked at Green Island’s Chungliao Harbor and walked along an unpaved road to the reeducation camp, commencing their grievous lives in captivity.
Sixty-two years later, a memorial concert was held on May 17 as part of the 2013 Green Island Human Rights Arts Festival, organized by the National Human Rights Museum’s Preparatory Office under the Ministry of Culture, during which the Shih Chien University Symphony Orchestra performed under the baton of Ou Yang Hui-kang.
This year young people are invited to come experience the pain and suffering that their elders went through as prisoners by actually traversing the island, starting at Chungliao Harbor and then visiting their living quarters. Apart from facing the trials and tribulations of staying alive, the prisoners also had to deal with the fear of not knowing what the future had in store for them, says National Human Rights Museum Preparatory Office director Wang Yi-chun. Having young people come experience what life was like on the island will hopefully allow them to understand that the adversities people faced during the White Terror era are part of the nation’s collective memory and not merely individual experiences, he says.
“It was really quite terrible,” says octogenarian Chang Chang-mei, whose face is still filled with emotion as she remembers the period. Chang and her husband Ou Yang Chien-hua were political prisoners on the island at the same time. They got married after being released and had one daughter and three sons. One of their sons, Ou Yang Hui-kang, is a famous violinist, while their daughter Ou Yang Hui-chen is a dancer. The images of torture that her husband, who has already passed away, left behind serve as valuable historical documents. What Chang finds particularly baffling is how the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), which held the utmost animosity toward the Chinese Communist Party, could persecute Taiwanese in this way and then today fawn upon the communists to no end.
The festival also has a photography exhibit of works by Chen Meng-ho, an exhibit of paintings by Ou Yang Wen as well as an exhibit of more than 400 paintings completed by Yang Chin-hai while in prison, all of which will be on dispaly until October 15.
(Liberty Times, Translated by Kyle Jeffcoat)