Human Rights monument on Green Island

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 political prisoners.

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 Incident."

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.

Back to: News and Current Events