Details of ‘ex-slave’ match claims of Taitung woman

The China Post news staff

Investigations by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and local media outlets initially verified the claim by a Taitung woman that a Taiwanese woman who was reportedly forced into domestic servitude in the U.S. is her long-lost sister. Bruce Linghu (令狐榮達), director-general of the MOFA’s Department of North American Affairs, said yesterday that the ministry was tipped off by a Taiwanese expatriate in Los Angeles who claimed to know the woman identified by the CNN special report on human trafficking as “Isabel” and said that she is also known by the name “Hsiao-feng.” That matches the claim made by Ho Hsiao-ying (何曉英), the Taitung County woman who said on Sunday that Isabel is her sister Ho Hsiao-feng (何曉鳳). Ho Hsiao-ying said her sister was adopted by a Taipei family when she was 7 years old and later moved to the U.S. The family received a few letters from Ho Hsiao-feng and she returned in 1994 when her father died. They lost contract with her after 2002, the Taitung woman said. Cable news channel TVBS reported that its U.S. correspondent traced the return address written in the mail Ho Hsiao-ying received from her sister to a U.S. jewelry shop and obtained a classified document showing that the jewelry shop owner bought a domestic helper named Ho Hsiao-ying.

The document, which appears to be a paper from the Supreme Court of California, described methods of abuse — 17 hours of work per day, putting a toilet brush into victim’s mouth — that match with those recalled by Isabel in the CNN report.

Due to the U.S. laws protecting the identity of abuse victims, MOFA officials are required to communicate with the social worker assigned Isabel’s case in order to reach Isabel and obtain her approval to be contracted, Linghu pointed out. Since the social worker concerned left from the post in October and the replacement is currently attending a training program outside L.A., the MOFA will have to wait until next week the earlier to reach Isabel, he added. The MOFA will provide assistance to Isabel regardless of her identity and will seek help from other agencies concerning her identification, he said. The National Immigration Agency also offered to screen information on people with the name “Ho Hsiao-feng” in its database for other help details, the TVBS reported. Martin Savidge, the CNN reporter who interviewed Isabel said in his Facebook page that the story “has become a sensation in Taiwan.”

“Reportedly Isabelle’s mother and sister have come forward. The president of Taiwan himself wants to make the reunion happen and bring Isabelle back to Taiwan. We will talk to Isabelle to see what she wants,” he added. In a later post, Savidge said that “I have been overwhelmed with friends from Taiwan! Thank you! We are still following up with Isabel no one over here was expecting such an outpouring of concern and help!”