Police said yesterday they had helped an Australian woman of Taiwanese descent find her long-lost biological mother in Taipei.
The National Police Agency (NPA) took it upon itself to help Jade Heffernan look for her mother after learning from a local media report last month that she was trying to find her.
Heffernan decided to search for her birth mother after seeing 14-year-old interview footage on YouTube, according to a Chinese-language Apple Daily report.
The 32-year-old Australian was quoted as saying she believed the woman in the Youtube clip of a Taiwanese woman being interviewed by the Australian TV program 60 Minutes in 1998 was her mother.
The 49-second clip features a Taiwanese woman praying in an unidentified temple and telling the interviewer that she learned from newspaper reports that the baby she had given up for adoption had been taken to Australia. In the footage, the woman shows the only photograph she has of her baby and says she wants to meet her daughter.
Heffernan said she recognized herself in the photograph and that she had a copy of it.
After watching the clip, Heffernan began to search for her mother and her plea was relayed through Facebook to Taiwan, leading to several netizen reports to the Apple Daily.
The daily said Hefferman was only three weeks old when her Australian adoptive parents came to Taiwan and took her back to their home in Adelaide. Her birth certificate said she was born on May 2, 1980, at Taipei’s An Hao maternity clinic.
While Heffernan said her adoptive parents, now in their 60s, love her as their own, she had always yearned to find her birth mother. She also called for people in Taiwan to help with her search.
“I want to tell her in person that I’m fine and that I’m happy,” Heffernan told the paper.
NPA Director-General Wang Cho-chiun (王卓鈞) then instructed Chang Kuo-cheng (張國政), a senior official at the NPA’s Household Registration Division, to assist in the search.
Because Heffernan’s birth mother mentioned in the interview that she suspected her daughter was actually sold to the Australian couple, Chang asked the Criminal Investigation Bureau to provide any information and data about baby-trading gangs arrested between 1980 and 1998.
“We also asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to help obtain relevant documents from Australia’s Channel 9 TV station,” Chang said.
From the documents, Chang confirmed that Heffernan was delivered at the An Hao maternity center in Taipei.
He then asked relevant household registration offices to provide data on baby girls born on the same day, along with data on their mothers.
After sifting through all this data, Chang managed to find a former An Hao midwife, now in her 90s, bedridden and unable to speak.
Chang said he found another woman by sifting through notarized documents.
“The woman, surnamed Chu (褚), was believed to have acted as an agent in the case,” he said. “Chu had served time in prison for involvement in the baby trade, but claimed to remember nothing about the Heffernan case.”
However, through an indirect source, Chang was able to contact one of Chu’s friends, who told him that Heffernan’s birth mother, surnamed Lee (李), was still living in Taipei.
Chang said when he visited Lee at her home, she initially denied any relationship to Heffernan and confirmed the mother-daughter relationship only after long and delicate persuasion.
Lee, now in her 60s, told Chang she had deeply regretted putting her baby up for adoption ever since she learned about 30 years ago that her daughter had probably been sold.
“She had written to the Australian authorities back then and obtained a photograph of her baby girl, which eventually helped make possible the mother-daughter reunion,” Chang said, adding that the NPA will arrange a teleconference for Lee and her daughter sometime in the next few days.