Once was a prison
Taiwan Human Rights Memorial (台灣人權景美園區) was officially opened by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) on Monday, which was Human Rights Day. The park, located in Xindian, Taipei County, was formerly known as the Jingmei Military Detention Centre (景美軍事看守所). The centre was used to try and hold political prisoners during the martial law era and was converted to a museum at the suggestion of Vice President Annette Lu. The park is managed by the Peng Ming-min Cultural Foundation.
I visited the park today. It seems they are still working on the main entrance area, but all the other exhibition areas were open. If you plan to visit I suggest waiting a few weeks until the works are finished and it is a bit more organised.
There are four halls of exhibitions in the park in what I guess were formerly administration buildings. They detail the history of resistance to KMT rule from 1947 to 1987. The photo above shows photos of members of the Taiwanese elite who disappeared during the 228 incident. Other points of interest included a screening of propoganda movies from the 1950s or 1960s. There are also many photos and materials related to the Kaohsiung Incident. There are lots of familiar faces among them as most of the current senior members of the DPP were involved in the incident. They all looked a lot younger then!
The block that served for holding political prisoners is now open to the public and includes some information about the prisoners that were held there. The gray concrete and reams of barbed-wire maintain a lifeless, oppressive feel to the place.
Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) and Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) were held in room 59 following the Kaohsiung Incident in 1979. Shi Ming-teh (施明德) was held there in 1985. The cells are open and you can see what kind of conditions the prisoners were kept under. There was no furniture in the rooms, although I assume they would have at least had a bed in them.
There is another building that served as a court for trying the prisoners on the site. Its display including some newspaper clippings of reports around the time of the trial of those involved in the Kaohsiung Incident.
It was interesting to visit and experience first hand the place where political prisoners were held. It made some of history feel more immediate and real.
*more photos in the Taiwan Human Rights Memorial set at flickr.