In the minds of many Taiwanese, especially the elderly, Ludao’s natural beauty is overshadowed by its brutal past as the primary place of imprisonment, torture and execution during the country’s White Terror (白色恐怖; báisè kǒngbù). Although in the late 1940s and early 1950s it was mostly targeted at those suspected of being Communist spies for the mainland, eventually students, intellectuals and professionals accused of criticizing the government were rounded up, tortured and interrogated before being imprisoned or executed. During this time, more than ninety thousand people were arrested in Taiwan and at least half were put to death. From 1951 until the end of martial law in 1987, more than twenty thousand political prisoners were shipped to Ludao, where they were held in the notorious Green Island Reform and Re-education Prison or Ludao Lodge (綠島山莊; lǜdǎo shānzhuāng), just east of Gongguan Village (the current buildings date from 1972). Here, inmates were routinely tortured and often confined to damp underground bunkers where they were eaten alive by mosquitoes. Some were held for more than thirty years before being freed, and an estimated one thousand were executed here. The prison, dubbed “Oasis Villa” in Chinese in the 1970s (in extreme irony) is now part of the Green Island Human Rights Culture Park (綠島人權文化園區; lǜdǎo rénquán wénhuà yuánqū), with a small visitor centre recounting the history of the site through films and displays, and the Human Rights Monument (人權紀念碑; rénquán jìniàn bēi). The words on the graceful stele, by writer Bo Yang, who spent twelve years in prison here, read: “During that era, how many mothers have cried through the night for their children imprisoned here?” To the west of Ludao Lodge, between Gongguan and Zhongliao villages, is the Ludao Prison (綠島監獄; lǜdǎo jiānyù), a maximum-security complex built in 1971 to hold Taiwan’s most dangerous convicts, including some of the island’s infamous organized-crime bosses (it’s off limits to the public).

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