Beside the Hsiulang Bridge, Hsintien, Taipei County
The Chingmei Detention Center in 1969. (provided by Tsai Chin- keng)
Before the Martial Law Section located at No. 3 Chingtao Road was moved to Chingmei in 1968, the Martial Law Section’s Chingmei Detention Center was the site of the Martial Law School, established in 1957. The Chingmei Detention Center took over from the Chingtao East Road Martial Law Section as the main facility for trying political prisoners in the 1970s and 1980s.
In the 1950s political prisoners detained at both the Ankeng and Chingtao East Road facilities did forced labor, so the early-period Chingmei Detention Center was established. A detention center should be for holding prisoners awaiting trial, but political prisoners being held after sentencing were detained by the authorities in large numbers to do hard labor. Some of those already sentenced were sent to the laundry and sewing plant within the prison, while others were sent to the upper reaches of the Hsintien River to gather gravel.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the era of “oppose the communists, resist Russia,” when communications with the outside world were sealed and there was no international show of concern, the authorities claimed that there were no political prisoners. In January 1970, when Peng Ming-min escaped overseas. the Chingmei Detention Center detainees were encouraged by the news. They collected and recorded the names of those secretly under long-term detention, with prisoners still being held passing the list to political prisoners who had already been released, who in turn passed it abroad.
With the changed domestic and international situation of the 1970s, foreigners and Taiwanese both inside Taiwan and outside who cared about human rights were joined by Amnesty International’s ongoing political prisoner rescue work. The military trial of the Formosa Incident defendants was held in the First Courtroom, and, under pressure of international opinion and with the opening of the trials to domestic and foreign media, it created a huge impact on society. In the 1984 Henry Liu murder case in California, evidence led to Wang Hsi-ling, then head of the Bureau of Intelligence. Convicted of ordering the murder, Wang was also jailed at the detention center, but a special section was built to house him.
The Martial Law Section’s Chingmei Detention Center was opened to the public on 10 December 2007 the Taiwan Human Rights Jingmei Park (“Jingmei” is the contemporary rendering of what used to be spelled as “Chingmei)