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Taiwan Scuba Diving Vacations - Green Island
- A Prison Story

New Lifer’s on Green Island
By: Eddie Viljoen

In the early 1950s, Taiwan’s Nationalist government sent its military, police and security agents throughout the far reaches of the island to arrest those who escaped the calamity of the February 28 Incident. The ensuing round-up has come to be known as the White Terror.
On May 17, 1951, nearly one thousand Taiwanese prisoners, landed at Jhongliao on Green Island. The native islanders eyed the arrival of these thin and weak “new students” suspiciously. They had no way of knowing what was to transpire between them and the new arrivals in the years to come.
New Life Camp, the island labor camp for political prisoners, at times held up to 2000 people. The daily work regimen consisted of smashing rocks, building sheds, clearing weeds, making rope, and black-smithing. Basic survival was left to the ways and means of the prisoners. They overcame the hardships of winter, prepared their own meals, grew their own vegetables, and raised their own livestock. But they didn’t count on the development of a kinship with the native islanders.
The islanders name for the prisoners, “New Lifers”, suggested that they had brought much to the island, from the first topographical map, to the first magazine, the first guitar, the first violin, and the first star chart. A large collection of photo images was also left behind by New Life Camp’s photography department. In their down time, the prisoners conducted recreational activities, such as traditional opera and sporting activities. Over time, the prisoners began conducting them together with the island people. The prisoners also offered young island students free tutoring.
From 1965 New Lifers who had completed their sentences began returning to Taiwan, while those serving sentences of lifetime imprisonment or fifteen years were transferred to Taiyuan Prison in Tungho Township in Taitung. Never again would the Green Islanders enjoy their Taiwanese operas, the star charts and millstones that the prisoner brought with them. A unique era of sharing and understanding had come to an end.
After the New Lifers left the island, the New Life Camp became the Taiwan Garrison Command’s Third Professional Training Corps for the correctional incarceration of gang members. Now under the control of the military police, gone forever was the interaction between the political prisoners and the Green Islanders.
Green Island is located some 33 kilometers off the coast of Taitung. (Adapted from Taiwan Tourism Buro information)

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