Woman sold into slavery returns to family reunion

A TAIWANESE woman allegedly sold into slavery as a child has returned from the US to the island for a family reunion.

Television images showed the woman, who identified herself as Isabel, arriving at the northern Taoyuan airport flanked by a group of Taiwanese government officials. She did not answer questions from reporters.

The foreign ministry, ordered by President Ma Ying-jeou to assist Isabel on the trip, declined to provide her itinerary, but sources said she would stay the night in Taipei before meeting her real mother in eastern Taitung county.

Her story came out in November when she was interviewed by US network CNN, recounting her unhappy childhood.

Isabel, who is in her 20s, said she was seven when her destitute parents had wanted to sell off her baby sister to a wealthy Taiwanese family, but she had offered to be sold instead.

The woman’s new family, who later moved to the US and took her with them, subjected her to prison-like conditions, she said, saying her adopted mother once shoved a toilet brush into her mouth and twisted it.

“As other children went to school, Isabel cooked and cleaned,” CNN said, adding that Isabel was not her real name. “Her bedroom was the garage. Her bed, the floor. Food, whatever the family didn’t want.”

Eventually Isabel managed to escape from the family’s southern California home, and she now lives in her own apartment, but wishes to be reunited with her Taiwanese mother.

“If I find her, I’ll say, Mom I love you so much,” she told CNN.

The trip has been low-profile, media said, because Isabel is barred from speaking to reporters after reaching a private settlement with the family in the US.

After a night’s rest, she is scheduled to fly to eastern Taitung County to visit her birth family there, and will stay there during the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday, during which she will also attend her younger sister’s wedding.

It is expected that she will head back to the US at the conclusion of the New Year holiday that will end in two weeks.

The homecoming trip was reportedly assisted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Council of Indigenous Peoples, but both government units yesterday refused to disclose more details about the Taiwanese woman’s tour in the country out of concerns for her privacy.

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