Located in Xindian District, New Taipei City, the 3.64-hectare park was once a place where many political victims were held in custody, prosecuted, put on trial, sentenced, and imprisoned. The following is a chronological record of the park’s historical background:
1949~1987: Taiwan under Martial Law
May 19th, 1949, the Republic of China declaredMartial Law in Taiwan. Martial Law lasted 38 years and 56 days until it waslifted on July 15th, 1987. The Martial Lawperiod marked an era when numerous cases of human right violation took place inTaiwan.
In the Martial Law period, the military district commandersand authorities in Taiwan were granted legal power to essentially deprivecivilians of their freedom of speech as well as freedom of assembly andassociation, taking away people’s constitutional rights to protest, petition, andgo on a strike. School lectures, news reports, and all sorts of publicationshad to be censored, and even religious activities could be politically banned. Besides,the authorities could also check private correspondence such as mail andtelegram and could enter and search private property at will.
In particular, Article 8 of the Martial LawAct stipulated that military authorities “may try by themselves or send todistrict courts for trial” cases involving sedition or treason, violation ofsocial order, hazardizing public safety, forgery of currency or securities, homicide,offense against personal liberty, robbery, piracy, and other crimes listed inthe Criminal Code.
In other words, the enforcement of Martial Lawactually put on suspension Article 9 of the Constitution of the Republic ofChina, which states that “except those in active military service, no personshould be subject to trial by a military tribunal.” Military authorities were thenable to court-martial those who were suspected to have committed specificoffenses listed in the Criminal Code or among the special criminal laws. As aresult, in the Martial Law period, cases of political offenses mounted up ingreat numbers, where most offenders were civilians court-martialed.
Overwhelmed by the raging numbers of political casesto be court-martialed, in the early 1950’s, the Ministry of National Defense ofthe KMT government soon ran short of martial law experts. To train newrecruits, the Ministry of National Defense decided to found a military law school.
1957~1967: Military Law School
After the December 1949 retreat from Mainland China to Taiwan, the Ministry of National Defense of the KMT government felt an urgent need to train cadre members for military law enforcement and thus later in 1954 began to enroll students into the so-called military law personnel training classes at No. 128 Zhongzheng Road in Taipei City. Then, in November 1955, the classes were moved to where Jingmei Human Rights Memorial and Cultural Park is, right next to Hsiulang Bridge.
However, it turned out that those military law personnel training classes were still not enough to fill the gap. In 1957, the Ministry of National Defense gave an order to reorganize and expand the training classes into a military law school, recruiting senior high school graduates for a four-year training course to cultivate military law cadre members.
Most of the Military Law School facilities were single-story wooden buildings when the school was founded, and some of the original buildings, including student dormitories, the Zhongzheng Hall, and a reading room, still stand in Jing-Mei Human Rights Memorial and Cultural Park today. In 1967, the Military Law School was moved away and merged into the Political Warfare Officers School (now known as Fu Hsing Kang College, National Defense University). At that time, Hsiulang Bridge was not expanded yet, and the exact place where the school’s front gate stood would be right outside of Jing-Mei Human Rights Memorial and Cultural Park now.
1967~1980: Military Law Section, Taiwan Garrison Command/ Bureau of Military Law, Ministry of National Defense
Towards the end of the year 1966, two pieces of land by the addresses of No.3 and No. 7 Qingdao East Road, Taipei City, originally utilized respectively by the Military Law Section of Taiwan Garrison Command and the Military Law Bureau of the Ministry of National Defense, were to be sold by tender. Therefore, both of the above units had to be moved elsewhere. From April 27th 1967 on, the Military Law Section of Taiwan Garrison Command and the Military Law Bureau of the Ministry of National Defense took over the campus of the Military Law School in Jingmei.
Yet, as both organizations that moved in needed more space than the old buildings of the Military Law School had to offer, the KMT government had to approve the construction of several new buildings including the First Court, the Military Court, as well as the two detention centers administered respectively by the Military Law Section of Taiwan Garrison Command and by the Bureau of Military Law of the Ministry of National Defense. In addition, a couple of office buildings were also erected, one for the Military Law Section of Taiwan Garrison Command and the other for the Bureau of Military Law of the Ministry of National Defense. Besides, to make the place easier to defend against attacks from both inside and outside, tall fences and sentry posts were also added.The Military Court was a single-story, reinforced brick building with a flat roof that held a large courtroom at the center and two small courtrooms, one to the right wing and the other to the left wing. From 1967 on, the Military Law Section of Taiwan Garrison Command held most of its trials in this building. On the other hand, the identity confirmation and final interrogation of those sentenced to death were also conducted here.
The ground originally used by the Military Law School as a basketball court is where the First Court was later constructed in 1977. Notably, the 9-day-long court martial of the Kaohsiung (Formosa) Incident that began on March 18, 1980 was held right in the First Court.
Being the largest court in the park, the First Court is a single-story, reinforced brick building with a flat roof, which includes a large courtroom, a pre-interrogation waiting room, and a council chamber. All through the Marital Law period, most of the major White Terror cases — including the Kaohsiung Incident, the assassination of dissident journalist-writer Henry Liu (Chiang Nan), and the alleged sedition of Yu Deng-fa and his son — were put on trial here. The court is now one of the most important heritage sites in Taiwan’s history of human rights.
In the southern part of Jing-Mei Human Rights Memorial and Cultural Park, where the training field of the Military Law School had been, the construction of the new detention centers (one administered by the Military Law Section of Taiwan Garrison Command and the other by the Military Law Bureau of the Ministry of National Defense) was completed in October 1968. To differentiate, the detention center run by the Military Law Section of Taiwan Garrison Command would be for the incarceration of military offenders, common felons, as well as political prisoners, while the detention center managed by the Military Law Bureau of the Ministry of National Defense would be used to hold crime-committing soldiers serving in the units directly subordinate to the Ministry of National Defense.The office building area that the Military Law Bureau of the Ministry of National Defense used to occupy ranged from the eastern part of Jing-Mei Human Rights Memorial and Cultural Park all the way off to where the Auto Repair Brigade of the Ministry of National Defense is now. The offices are currently still used for administrative work. As for the Zhongzheng Hall, it was shared among the units in the area as an auditorium.
In this period, although the whole space was shared by two different organizations, there was no wall to separate the two units from each other, except for the fact that there was a high fence built in between the two detention centers that kept the prisoners from escaping when escorted to and off the court.
1980~1991: Military Law Section, Taiwan Garrison Command
In 1980, the Bureau of Military Law of The Ministry ofNational Defense was moved again to Gongguan, but its courtrooms and detentioncenter remained in the park area. Later, in 1987, due to an urban planrevision, four pieces of land on the northern side of the park were abalienatedby Taipei County (upgraded to city status in 2010 and known as New Taipei Citysince then) Government to the Directorate General of Highways.
As Hsiulang Bridge and its approach roads were to bebroadened to a width of 40 meters, Jing-Mei Human Rights Memorial and CulturalPark had to give away a long strip of land with a width of 12 meters along itsnorthern boundary. A new wall with an observation tower was then built to serveas the new northern boundary of the park. Meanwhile, the park’s front entrance,sentry post, and reception room were set near the end of Hsiulang Bridge.
Then, a new two-story concrete building was constructed.At the northwestern part of the park, the old buildings were torn down andreplaced by a badminton court, a basketball court, and an archive room.
Shortly after the Kaohsiung Incident that happened at theend of 1979, a small detention center with only four prison cells was built onthe west side of Jen-Ai Building. Then, in 1981, this small detention centercame to be subordinate to the Military Intelligence Bureau.
After the assassination of dissident journalist-writerHenry Liu (Chiang Nan) in 1984, Director Wang Hsi-ling of the IntelligenceBureau of the Ministry of National Defense was sentenced to lifelongimprisonment and deprivation of civil rights for life. Instructed by PresidentChiang Ching-kuo, Chief of the General Staff Hau Pei-tsun gave the ordered tohave a house built in the place where the Military Law Section of TaiwanGarrison Command was for the confinement of Wang Hsi-ling.
As a response to Hau’s order, the Military Law Section ofTaiwan Garrison Command leveled a small pond and a garden on the right-handside of the park entrance and built a single-story house with walls around it insteadto home-confine Wang. Well equipped with a study room, a living room, andbedrooms, the house was shared by Wang and his deputy director Hu Min-yi whenthey both moved in.
Hu was moved elsewhere three months later, and Wang then spentthree years in solitary confinement. After that, due to his arrhythmia anddepression, Wang was transferred to a military intelligence school in the Yangmingshanarea to continue his term of imprisonment. During Wang’s confinement at theintelligence school, his family members were allowed to visit and accompanyhim. As for the specially built prison house in Jingmei, it was left unoccupiedsince then.
1992~2006: Three-Level Military Court/Prosecution System, Ministry of National Defense
Taiwan Garrison Command was dissolved in July1992. The detention centers in the park area were then taken over by and theCoast Guard Command.
In 1999, the Code of Court Martial Procedurewas revised, passed, and put into practice. Accordingly, the Ministry ofNational Defense established the Northern District Military Court, the NorthernDistrict Military Court Prosecution Bureau, the High Military Court, the HighMilitary Court Prosecution Bureau, the Supreme Military Court, the SupremeMilitary Court Prosecution Bureau, and the Northern District Military CourtProsecution Bureau Detention Center in the Jingmei park area. The site was thenrenamed Xindian Fu Hsing Camp, and the Coast Guard Detention Center was thenrenamed the Northern District Military Court Prosecution Bureau Detention Center.
There were no major changes made to the park duringthis period. Although the Ministry of National Defense had planned to constructnew buildings in the area to meet the requirements of heavier loads of officework, in 2001 when Vice President Annette Lu Hsiu-lien visited the park andlearned about the construction plans, she gave her idea of preserving all thefacilities in the area as they were. To respond to the vice president’sproposal, the Executive Yuan instructed the Council of Cultural Affairs to negotiatewith the Ministry of National Defense over the preservation of the site, andthe construction plan was suspended.
In a July 2002 meeting, the Human RightsAdvisory Panel of the Presidential Office came to an agreement that the Jingmeisite should be carefully preserved. In August 2002, a decision was made to makethe Jingmei military detention center a memorial park, and later on June 21,2005, the Executive Yuan officially retitled the Jingmei site as the MemorialPark of Court Martial During the Period of National Mobilization in Suppressionof Communist Rebellion. On November 3, 2005, the park was renamed again as theMemorial Park of Court Martial During the Period of Martial Law, though.
2007~present: The Council of Cultural Affairs
In 2002, the Council of Cultural Affairs(which was upgraded to the Ministry of Culture in 2012) began to negotiate withthe Ministry of National Defense over the preservation of the facilities in thepark area. By 2007, all the military units were moved out of the park area, andthe Ministry of National Defense officially gave up the administrativeauthority over the land and buildings in the park to the Council of CulturalAffairs. On October 1, 2007, the Council of Cultural Affairs sent out anofficial document to the Taipei County Government to request that the park beregistered as a historic building. In response, the Taipei County Government soonhad the “Jingmei Military Detention Center in Xindian” listed as a TaipeiCounty historic building.
The park began the preservation work under the name of theMemorial Park of Court Martial During the Period of National Mobilization inSuppression of Communist Rebellion. The repair workwas completed in 2007. However, just when the first series of exhibitions andevents were about to be launched in sync with the World Human Rights Day,President Chen Shui-bian renamed the park as “Taiwan Human Rights Jingmei Park.
Starting with November 16, 2007, the PengMing-min Cultural and Educational Foundation was entrusted with the managementof the park for one year. A series of exhibitions and events on human rightswere held in the year. However, the foundation later indicated that it wouldnot seek an extension of the contract. As a result, the Council of CulturalAffairs organized a task force to take over the management of the park onNovember 16, 2008.
To get ready for the scheduled grand openingof the park by the end of 2008, the Council of Cultural Affairs actively soughtexternal support and assistance in such preparations as research of associatedhistory, writing texts for exhibitions, collecting related artifacts anddocuments, getting documents and relics in display properly authorized, organizingexhibitions, integrated spatial design of the park, and restoring impairedparts of the historic buildings since 2002.
The second transition of Taiwan’s rulingparty happened in May 2008. Then, after much deliberation, the Council ofCultural Affairs decided to change the name of the park to “Jingmei CulturalPark” on February 27, 2009. This decision incurred opposition from varioushuman rights groups, and a public hearing was held right in the park on April30, 2009 to discuss the renaming of the park.
After the public hearing, the Council ofCultural Affairs decided to adopt the consensus of the majority ofparticipants and name the park “Jing-Mei Human Rights Memorial and Cultural Park.” The decision was approved by the ExecutiveYuan on June 24, 2009, and the name has stayed the same to date since.
Having taken charge of the management of the park, theCouncil of Cultural Affairs decided to follow the principle of maintaining theoriginal spatial arrangement. Therefore, the original entrance remained to beused by the military court prosecution units during the process when theseunits gradually got relocated elsewhere. On the west side of the park, however,the archive room and the badminton court were torn down and changed to aparking lot.
In addition, the sentry post was redesigned as a securityoffice, and the High Military Court Prosecution Bureau building was convertedinto an administration center and a visitor service center. Along with theWhite Dove Square and the pool that replaced the old basketball court on thesouth side, these buildings around the park entrance also serve as a piece ofpublic art with a strong imagery.
The Minister of Cultural Affairs Emile Sheng Chih-jenannounced on July 22, 2010 that there would be the National Human Rights Museumestablished in the future with both Jing-Mei and Green Island Memorial Parks subordinateto the Museum. The major missions of the Museum would include investigation & research, collection& preservation, exhibition & publication, as well as human rightseducation and promotion. The Museum should be a place where history getsrelived and the value of human rights gets planted deep in every visitor’smind.
On December 10, 2011, the Preparatory Office of National Human Rights Museum, set up in the Jing-Mei park area, officially started operation. Meanwhile, the National Taitung Living Art Center also handed the jurisdiction of the Green Island Human Rights Memorial and Cultural Park over to the Preparatory Office.