Green Island Human Rights Memorial Park bears witness to real human rights abuses that took place in the Asian islands of the Western Pacific during the Cold War era of the 20th century. Taiwan also represents an unusually long-running martial law period. Now it represents the successful third wave of democratization in the second half of the 20th century, one which saw Taiwan become a model for emerging democratic nations. This has great significance for the development of democratic civilizations in the Asia-Pacific region.
Robben Island, South Africa.
Within the park’s boundaries were once locked up people from all walks of life from all provinces of China, from all regions of Taiwan, and even from various other countries. Those imprisoned here in the 1950s include more than ten doctors. Those political prisoners held for lengthy periods also left intangible cultural marks on Green Island stemming from their interactions with island residents (through drama performances, festivals, athletic meets, agriculture, and visits from relatives). More than 20 prisoners each served sentences of over 30 years here (of those handed life sentences in the 1950s, the lengthiest incarceration was 34 years and seven months), perhaps a world record for an island prison.
The park’s case list presents a legacy of tragedy, or “negative heritage,” comparable to that of sites on the World Heritage List, including remnants of tragedies such as the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland (1979, Criteria vi), Atomic Dome in Hiroshima (1996, Criteria vi) and Robben Island in South Africa (1999, Criteria iii & vi), the latter of which symbolizes the human pursuit of freedom despite the policy of apartheid.
Green Island’s coastal coral reef, includes the Great Mushroom Head, which serves as an indicator of change in the ecology of the nearby ocean waters, a living record of the earth’s history. The Great Mushroom Head is 12 meters tall and 31 meters around, and is nicknamed Helmet Head.
Although it is formed of living coral, it has alternating white and grey growth rings, growing a centimeter a year on average. From its height it is estimated to be at least 1200 years old, and as the largest known Porites lobata coral reef in the world it preserves the history of the earth’s oceans within it.
The park includes marine ecosystems, and possesses significance in line with world cultural heritage standards.
Besides founding the International Committee of Memorial Museums for the Remembrance of Victims of Public Crimes (ICMEMO), ICOM promotes international dialog. As a human rights NGO, the International Network of Museums for Peace set in motion a series of peace museum conferences. Five international conferences took place between 1993 and 2005.
October 2004, the International Council of Museums (ICOM) convening for the first time in Seoul. ICMEMO gathered at the DMZ at the 38th parallel, discussing the possibility of the DMZ one day becoming an outdoor Cold War museum.
The fifth meeting of the International Network of Museums for Peace was held in May 2005 in Gernika-Lumo, in the Basque region of northeast Spain, with the Gernika Peace Museum Foundation hosting. Artists, human rights workers and representatives from peace museums in more than 20 countries attended.
After the 1980s, a series of peace museums was established in various places around the world on subjects such as wars, peace, human rights, massacres and other historical events, and this was the primary reason for ICOM’s founding of ICMEMO at their annual meeting in Barcelona in 2001. The content of the exhibitions revolves around historical stories as seen through the eyes of those affected, displaying and interpreting multiple historical accounts. The research and interpretative angles of Taiwan’s memorials are closely analogous to the historical experiences and democratic developments of other countries.
The work of UNESCO and the NGO International Network of Museums for Peace in promoting common values and world peace is worthy of being emulated by Taiwan, which has progressed from colonial and authoritarian governments to democracy.
Currently the three most important among Taiwan’s peace museums are the Taipei February 28 Memorial Museum, founded in 1997 by Taipei’s Department of Cultural Affairs; Green Island Human Rights Memorial Park, partially opened on 10 December 2002; and the Taiwan Human Rights Jingmei Memorial, inaugurated on 10 December 2007. The memorial museums are important cultural institutions providing education on citizens’ history and human rights during Taiwan’s movement toward democratization.
Racetrack Memorial Park was founded in August 2002
The form of the stone sculpture Earth and Mother, located at the Taipei February 28 Memorial Museum, symbolizes the mothers of the victims of the February 28 Incident.
February 28 Monument established in 1995.