Taipei, 10 December 1998
On the 50th anniversary of International Human Rights Day, a
commemoration was held on Green Island, a small island to the
Southeast of Taiwan. From the late 1940s through the end of the
1980s, the island was used as the Kuomintang's main prison for
Mr. Shih Ming-teh, former chairman of the Democratic Progressive
Party, spent most of his 25 years imprisonment on this Kuomintang
version of South Africa's Robben Island. In total, between 20,000 to
30,000 people were imprisoned on Green Island.
Taiwan's Premier Vincent Siew presided over a ground-breaking
ceremony for a human rights monument on Green Island. At the
ceremony, Siew expressed regret for past political persecution and
pledged to uphold human rights as the island became more democratic.
He noted that the site was once a prison, "where many
political prisoners or prisoners of conscience had wasted their
previous lives." "Freedom of thinking should be a
protected human right and we cannot send somebody to jail because he
holds different political views," he said.
"It has left a deep scar on the country's development and I
myself feel profound regret," Siew added. But he said the
government was "brave to face the past and correct its mistakes"
as the country became more democratic.
Also at the ceremony was Mr. Po Yang, who had pushed for the
monument, who was imprisoned on the island in 1969, after he
translated a "Popeye" comic from English to Chinese. He
was accused of making fun of president Chiang Kai-shek, and served a
ten year sentence for "undermining the affection between the
people and the government."
Mr. Shih Ming-teh was one of eight opposition leaders jailed for
organizing Taiwan's first major Human Rights Day demonstration in
the southern city of Kaohsiung on Human Rights Day 19 years ago. The
event laid the cornerstone for Taiwan's present-day democratic
opposition movement. Virtually all leading figures of the opposition
were in some way associated with what later became known as the "Kaohsiung
Some, like Mr. Yao Chia-wen, Mr. Huang Hsien-chieh, Mr. Shih
Ming-teh, and Mr. Lin Yi-hsiung successively became chairman of the
DPP, while others -- such as Taipei mayor Chen Shui-bian,
newly-elected Kaohsiung mayor Hsieh Ch'ang-t'ing, and former Taipei
County Magistrate You Ch'ing -- served as defense lawyers at the
1980 trial of the Kaohsiung defendants.