January 19th, 2012
09:34 AM ET

Former domestic slave reunited with mother in Taiwan

When she was about 7, Isabel was sold into domestic servitude to a wealthy Taiwan family who later moved to California. She endured a childhood of constant work and beatings and only escaped when she was in her 20s.

CNN's Martin Savidge first talked to Isabel about her story in November. In that conversation, Isabel said her wish was to be reunited with her mother. "If I find her I say Mom I love you so much. I still want to find you," she said.

Her story sparked a media storm in Taiwan and the country's foreign minister helped locate Isabel's family.

On Thursday, after 20 years, Isabel got her wish and was finally reunited with her mother. Watch more in the video above of the mother and daughter meeting for the first time after decades.

Below is the original video of Isabel's story from November 2011 or read it here.

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soundoff (53 Responses)
  1. Becky

    If everyone have a forgiving heart like isabella !!!

    January 19, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Reply
    • Blondie

      Look at mom's body language. She threw this little girl away, and never in her wildest dreams did she ever want to see her again. Maybe she was a child of rape; maybe mom didn't want her in the first place. I wish this young woman a prosperous and peaceful life.

      January 21, 2012 at 10:12 am | Reply
      • Michael

        I have to say that I thought it was very strange that the mother never looked at her daughter once on this video, unlike the daughter. Is it perhaps guilt feelings, or perhaps she is not so happy to see her daughter? What a strange world we live in.

        January 24, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
      • 1212

        Michael: It could be guilt. If you did something so terrible, would you be able to look your daughter in the eye? Especially if she were so forgiving. If she were hateful, that would at least make it better in a way. Since she is so forgiving, it's even more shameful for the mother.

        January 26, 2012 at 2:09 am |
      • phoenix

        It is difficult to understand Isabela's mother as she does not seem to be gushing all over her daughter in a display of affection that is typical of the west. While it may seem that she is cold, what I can guess is she probably feels is deep humiliation for being too poor to bring up her daughters, and embarassed to have this highlighted in the media. No mother feels happy or proud to have given away their children. When a family has nothing to eat, you do what you have to to survive. I know. Both my paternal and maternal grandmothers were given away as young children to wealthy families to be their servants. I never got to ask them but I am sure they endured beatings, punishment and complete lost childhoods, just like Isabel's.

        February 1, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
  2. ACE

    usa usa usa fix it first and ill forgive

    January 19, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Reply
  3. Shelley

    Sorry if I can't get all gooey about the supposed happy ending. That mother is as cold as ice. Dogs and cats take better care of their young than she did. By "forgiving" her mother, Isabella seems to still be seeking acceptance from the woman who rejected her (and her sister) so cruelly. Good luck to her. She'll need it.

    January 19, 2012 at 10:03 pm | Reply
    • Rickey

      Shelley there is an old saying, "...until you have walked a mile in the...persons shoes..." I agree with you it was indeed a sad story. However until you have traveled to some of these countries outside of the U.S. and witness how the poor live there, you cannot begin to fathom what theygo through. The poorest American's would be considered wealthy and blessed by their standard of life.

      February 15, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Reply
      • Willian

        Hehe, love the cooking and claneing tips because my wife and I use them ourselves. I always ensure everything is prepped (i.e. veggies all chopped, etc) and ready to go before I start cooking otherwise something screws up and I end up cooking the food too long (and thus losing a lot of the flavor of it).As for claneing, that's simple actually. The trick is just to clean as you go. For example, instead of making a big mess in the kitchen, then eating dinner, and then looking back in the kitchen afterwards with a sigh at the mess to clean up, just clean when you have a moment while cooking or even after everything is ready (just take a few minutes to clean up most of the mess before you sit down to eat). When claneing the rest of the house, again clean after you use something (i.e. a quick wipe here and there). It called the David Weinberger claneing method or Small Pieces Loosely Joined . Do the small pieces of claneing daily but in small pieces so that when you add it all up, everything looks clean. 🙂

        March 4, 2012 at 4:20 am |
    • Kensuke

      Stop this! I think I can speak for the majority of the Taiwanese and all other right-minded Asian ppeole that East Asia is not in need of an arms race. Taiwan and China have already undergone a long peaceful time of reapproachment and we should not through this experience away just because some Yankees or Taiwanese politicians think they have to protect Taiwan from the big red danger in the east . In my long life I oversaw the Taiwan miracle and saw the 3 Principles of Sun Zhongshan finally fulfilled in Chinese history. Now it's time to gradually bring these 3 principles to the Mainland: democracy,ppeole's welfare and national self-confidence in the Chinese nation and culture. These mission is most easily done in a peaceful gradual way and when Mainland China catched up to us in political and social matters, then the long sought reunification and final fulfillment of Sun's vision of an united China will come true and then I will be proud to say that China re-established it's leading world-position lost after the fall of the Song-Dynasty.

      March 4, 2012 at 3:55 am | Reply
    • pnlxrx

      D4hTes zchuitirleep

      March 11, 2012 at 8:29 pm | Reply
  4. lila

    what about her sister doesn't she want to find her?

    January 19, 2012 at 11:04 pm | Reply
  5. Tracy Teng

    Isabel used to be a slave working for Taiwanese wealthy boss. I am angry why her boss treated her so crucial. They are all Taiwanese, only difference is that her boss is rich, but she is poor and pitiful. I believe that not every rich person is as mean as her boss. There are still many considerable and generous wealthy persons helping the poor every day around the world. Being a Taiwanese as well, I feel ashamed of her boss. Hopefully they’ve learned the lesson.

    January 19, 2012 at 11:40 pm | Reply
    • Neil Cassidy

      Tracy, how about being ashamed of her mother? You don't even mention her. Isn't she even worse than the monster "boss"? She sold her daughter as a slave, and frankly, didn't look so happy to see her in the video, either. China is a f-up'd place morally. I just spent 6 years living in China. And trust me, I know.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:13 am | Reply
      • Song Sia Wei

        INeil Cassidy, I am Chinese from Malaysia, that is why when people ask me if I am a Chinese, I always tell them that I am Malaysian, I am not a Chinese 😉

        January 20, 2012 at 1:28 am |
      • sharlen

        They are from Taiwan, not China. Different countries, I am from Taiwan, trust me, I know.

        January 20, 2012 at 5:22 am |
      • Neil Cassidy

        Not so fast, Sharlen. Both China and Taiwan are Chinese countries and cultures. They are 95% the same, despite the different forms of government. I am sorry if you are so sensitive. Your defensiveness substantiates my point.

        January 24, 2012 at 1:34 am |
  6. Neil Cassidy

    It is too bad it has to be that way for you Song Sia Wei. But I certainly understand why you'd feel that way. : )

    January 20, 2012 at 1:58 am | Reply
    • Afra Payne

      Neil, You can talk about any crap you want but please be sure you know what you are talking about! Taiwan is not China! they have different government, different currency, they are two different countries and have two different presidents!

      January 25, 2012 at 2:21 am | Reply
      • Neil Cassidy


        Did you see what i wrote above before you commented Afra?? Different forms of money or different presidents doesn't change the deep underlying culture. As I wrote, I lived in the Mainland for many years and visited Taipei many times as well.

        January 25, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
      • Neil Cassidy

        If you truly didn't believe my observations, you wouldn't be so defensive. Just saying, sir.

        January 25, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
    • Donny Yen

      O now Taiwan and China are the same country....

      bet you sing a different tune when the USA is sending weapons to Taiwan to protect it from China

      thats like saying America is the same country as Canada both having similar cultures..

      January 26, 2012 at 12:14 am | Reply
      • Afra Payne

        Totally agree with Donny.

        January 26, 2012 at 3:39 am |
    • Ophe

      You are conpletely wroung. I am from Taiwan. dont say any thing like you knows our culture. haveing different goverment is a huge difference. just take north Korea and sounth Korea as example !!! Your conments above just reveal you're lack of knowledge and narrow-mind! get educated!!!

      February 2, 2012 at 9:52 pm | Reply
  7. Hmmm

    Did CNN get the story right? It was reported in Taiwan papers that it was the alcoholic father who sold her. The alcoholic father initially wanted to sell her younger sister but Isabel begged her father to sell her instead because her sister is still so young. The father took her and sold her to a middleman cousin when her mother went out to work, so the mother doesn't know of it until she was gone, and the father refused to disclose where he sold her.

    I'm skeptical of this side of the story. She wasn't educated, she was kept a slave where she had few interactions with the outside world and people. Yet, she managed to master English!

    January 20, 2012 at 2:51 am | Reply
    • Blondie

      Evidently she picked up what english she knows from the people that enslaved her.

      January 21, 2012 at 10:37 am | Reply
      • Rose

        I read your post and whseid I'd written it

        October 12, 2012 at 4:00 am |
  8. Hmmm

    Chinese refers to the ethnic race. Chinese is also a term to describe citizens of PRC. Basically it's a word of 2 different meanings. You could be a British Chinese, a ethnic Chinese with British citizenship.

    But for people who are ethnically Chinese but denies they are Chinese due to misconception that it means they are China citizens, it's just funny.

    When filling forms that ask about Race, some people would write Taiwanese, Malaysian etc, and deny they are Chinese. They are talking about RACE, not citizenship. Race is Chinese, Citizenship is Taiwanese, Malaysian etc. Song Sia Wei is Malaysian Chinese for example.

    Headache of having a same word meaning 2 things and people not wanting to have any links/ties to China even though their ancestors were from there.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:59 am | Reply
    • careworn

      And Chinese don't speak Chinese – just as Europeans don't speak 'Euriopean' – they speak, Mandarin, Cantonese, etc depending on their region. However, they write 'Chinese'!

      I had three chinese friends in Malaysia – they coulkdn't speak to each other in their mother tongues but they coukld write to each other.

      January 23, 2012 at 1:45 am | Reply
    • George

      Technically all of our ancestors are from Africa, but no not everyone says they're Africans.

      Also, a lot of Taiwanese are not Chinese by race. Many have immigrated with Chiang Kai-Shek from the Chinese Civil War, yes but there are still that have lived there for hundreds of years prior to that, and even the indigenous people.

      January 23, 2012 at 2:14 am | Reply
  9. Disappointed

    Annoyed that the conversation devolved to racist comments toward the Chinese and not celebratory that a girl is now freed from slavery.

    Everyone is so bitter and angry toward the mother, but are you aware that most people are trafficked to America (and other countries) because they believe they are going to a better life? Traffickers advertise that they will give money and ensure safe passage to a place where the person can get employment, schooling, or find safety. Desperate parents and people agree and the nightmare begins. This mother may have agonized over the situation and then decided to let her go. How dare we judge this mother based on her ethnicity, her home, or the treatment of her daughter? No one knows the full story here. This girl was almost harrassed by the interviewer who asked if she was sure that she wanted to meet the woman who sold her. The mother was made to look like a villain. No word of anger toward the ones who took the girl and imprisoned her. She might have been sold by her mother, but she was purchased by Americans and abused and kept in the garage, fed scraps, and forced to be a slave. Glad I am not ethinically or geographically American.

    (BTW: I would not say that she has 'mastered English.' And if you would consider her mastered English, she was working in a home, maybe as a nanny, and would have been talked to in English, she had to learn something and I am sure that she's been offered some help/counselling/rehibilitation which would also improve her English skills and she has been in America since she was 7 years old, plenty of time to be at a much higher level of English than she is now.)

    January 20, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Reply
  10. Becky

    So many questions are left unaddressed in this article! How did the Taiwanese family get the girl into the US without the proper legal papers for the girl? Why isn't there any mention of whether or not that family is being investigated by the US or by Taiwan for human trafficking, child imprisonment, and child abuse? Either this is a case of poor news reporting, or there is something terribly wrong with the law enforcement and justice system in both countries!

    January 21, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Reply
    • sharlen

      She did sue the rich family who owns a jewelry store and somehow dropped the case later, not sure for what reason. There are little details about it, you can google it.

      January 21, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Reply
  11. Biko Lang

    BUT WHY DO THE TAIWANESE MEDIA KEEP USING THE WORD "ALLEGED" AND "ALLEGEDLY", Martin? See the Taipei Times and the China Post. Why?

    When she was about 7, Isabel was "allegedly" sold into domestic servitude to a wealthy Taiwan family who later moved to California. She "allegedly" endured a childhood of constant work and beatings and only escaped when she was in her 20s.

    January 22, 2012 at 10:04 am | Reply
  12. Biko Lang

    Yes, Martin Savidge, you need to dig deeper. re Did CNN get the story right? It was reported in all the Taiwan news papers that it was the alcoholic father in Taipei who sold her. The alcoholic father initially wanted to sell her younger sister but Isabel begged her father to sell her instead because her sister is still so young. The father took her and sold her to a middleman cousin when her mother went out to work, so the mother doesn't know of it until she was gone, and the father refused to disclose where he sold her.

    January 22, 2012 at 10:07 am | Reply
  13. Biko Lang

    And CNN reporter Pauline Chiu who is from Taiwan originally via family, although she went to Yale and now works for CNN in Hong kong, she came to Taiwan last week to report this alleged story and she also reporter false facts and alleged incidents as truth. Pauline, wake up, girl! Yale did not teach you to qusetion alleged news event?

    January 22, 2012 at 11:53 pm | Reply
  14. Biko Lang

    In fact, it was normal in those days for poor Aborignal families in south Taiwan to sell or loan or trade their daughers to x businesses to work as x or to give them to wealthy families. This entire "Isabel" story has been mis-reproted by CNN and the Freedom Project. WHY? one important thing we ALl want to know, martin, is how did the story of iIsabel come to the attention of the FP and CNN in the first place. Seems someone is shopping a made for HBO story here and the truth is the victim. DIg deeper CNN, there IS a story here but it not gooey sappy Andy Cooper story.

    January 22, 2012 at 11:54 pm | Reply
  15. Biko Lang

    This is tragic and there are liars invovled here. find out who is lying first. In taiwan, everyone knows this CNN story is flaky. that is why all the newspapers called her her "Isabel" in quotes as if it is not her real name and why they say she was an ALLEGED slave. WHY the allaged bit?

    January 22, 2012 at 11:54 pm | Reply
  16. Heather

    I do not know much of Taiwanese culture, nor body language inherent to that group of people. What I do know is that there is "general" body language that most people convey, and that mother does NOT love the daughter. She seemed reticent to be around her, did not look at her once, did not hug her, meanwhile the daughter is "all over the mom," hugging and putting her head down on her shoulder. No, the mother did not want her children at all. I personally think the mom should be imprisoned for what she did, as should the rich people who bought the young girl to make her into a slave.

    January 29, 2012 at 9:13 am | Reply
  17. ceiling fan

    There was no coverage of China pressuring NY officials to not allow Falun Gong to participate (as they have in previous years) in the Chinese New Year parade in NYC. NY officials caved-in to their MASTER. Bow, US citizens, to your MASTER, the Chinese government!

    January 29, 2012 at 11:42 am | Reply
  18. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

    I hope that someday that Taiwanese couple will visit the United states so that thy can spend the next 30 years in a federal prison cell. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, B.A., J.D., S.P.J..

    February 1, 2012 at 11:58 pm | Reply
  19. Name*Holly martin

    It is a very tertible , very real & sad CRIME!
    Realized a young girl was NOT! working or being paid as a WILLING girl from Thailand – Whom was promised Big $ & Trips to "
    Disneyworld " after months of gaining Trust, investigation, on my part was able to plan escape – Success ! I used to be a Visiting Nurse .

    February 10, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Reply
  20. Steve

    What was done about the rich family that bought and enslaved this person? Were they arrested and hel accountable for this crime?

    February 27, 2012 at 9:26 pm | Reply
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  24. James

    Look her mother still wish she was dead lol while watching that im waiting or expecting someone from out in the crowd to punch the old lady in the head hahaha

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