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
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
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)
for more information about traveling there.