Tue, Jun 01, 2010 - Page 3 News List

FEATURE: Green Island visit revives memories

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Former political prisoner Chen Peng-yun recounts the construction work he had to do as an inmate as he stands in front of a recreated scene in the reconstructed New Life Correction Center on Green Island on May 15.

PHOTO: LOA IOK-SIN, TAIPEI TIMES

There was forced labor, torture, beating, hostility between the “Reds” and the “Whites” and betrayal — former political prisoners recalled their life on Green Island when they recently revisited and expressed their hope that no one else would ever be jailed for their political beliefs in this country again.

From 1949 when Martial Law was declared in Taiwan until 1987 when it was lifted, thousands of people were imprisoned or executed for holding political views that differed from those of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime. Some of them did take part in anti-government activities, but most were merely complaining about social or political situations in the country.

Green Island, a small island with of only 16km², 33km offshore of Taitung City, seemed to the then-KMT authoritarian regime the perfect place to jail dissidents. Hence, the small island was home to two political prisoner camps — the New Life Correction Center (新生訓導處) and the Oasis Village (綠洲山莊).

The New Life Correction Center was completed in the 1950s and was in use until the 1960s when all political prisoners were transferred to Taiwan proper.

After a failed uprising planned by political prisoners at Taiyuan Prison (泰源監獄) in Taitung County’s Donghe Township (東河) in 1970, the government decided to move the “most dangerous” political prisoners back to Green Island and lock them up in the then-newly completed Oasis Village.

Dozens of former political prisoners — most of them in their 80s — returned to Green Island on May 15 to attend the opening of a reconstructed New Life Correction Center and an exhibition of life on the island back in the Martial Law era.

The New Life Correction Center, mostly a wooden structure, was later flattened.

During the visit, the former political prisoners recalled the times they lived through on the small island in the West Pacific.

“I’ve worked like this, this looks so real,” former political prisoner Cheng Peng-yun (陳鵬雲) said, pointing at wax figures showing how political prisoners had to dig rocks from the coast and transport them back to the New Life Correction Center.

The prisoners had to build houses and walls around the prison camp with the rocks they collected from the coast.

“It was not easy, because the rocks were heavy and the weather on Green Island was always humid and hot,” he said.

Work injuries were common, as Chen and his “classmates” — as the prisoners called each other — had to walk on rocks when they moved around since there were no paved roads on the island at the time.

Chen was one of the first dissidents to be sent to Green Island in 1951.

He was arrested in September 1950 for participating in the Taipei City Work Committee, a branch of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) underground organization the Taiwan Provincial Work Committee (台灣省工作委員會), created by Changhua-born underground CCP member Tsai Hsiao-chien (蔡孝乾) in 1945.

Tsai was arrested by the KMT regime in 1950. He surrendered and submitted lists of all underground CCP organizations in Taiwan, which led to a series of subsequent arrests of Taiwanese communists that lasted until 1954.

“Tsai is a traitor, he only cared about himself,” Chen said. “He was able to enjoy his life because we suffered.”

After giving up his comrades, Tsai was given the title of major general and worked for the National Security Bureau until his death in 1982.

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