It has now been 19 days since Chinese scholar Zhang Yingying went missing from her University of Illinois campus, but her family and the FBI are relentless as ever. In a recent news statement, the FBI revealed that they have found the black Saturn Astra related to Zhang’s case, which is being treated as a kidnapping and as a “national priority.”
The 26-year-old is a visiting scholar at the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. A Fujian-native with degrees from Peking University and Sun Yat-sen University, Zhang hopes to eventually land a career as a professor so that she can support her family financially.
But not even a month after arriving in America, Zhang climbed into a car on the afternoon of June 9th and hasn’t been seen since. She told her friends that she was on her way to sign a lease on an apartment at a local agency. When she hadn’t returned by the next morning, they called the police.
On Sunday, the FBI called Zhang’s case a “national priority” at a meeting on UIUC’s campus, and it looks like they have made some progress. A FBI spokesperson confirmed yesterday during a news release that they had located the car that Zhang disappeared in.
“The car was described as a black Saturn Astra four-door hatchback,” the FBI said, “The University of Illinois Police Department and FBI have received numerous leads regarding the vehicle, and we are announcing we have located the vehicle.”
Although they found the car, the FBI acknowledged that Zhang is still missing.
“We have developed several additional leads and would like to remind the public that this is still an active investigation,” they said.
Meanwhile, Zhang’s father, Zhang Ronggao, along with her boyfriend and aunt, traveled to the US on June 17th to await further news. The South China Morning Post reports that Zhang’s dad delivered a powerful message during a recent telephone interview.
“We will forgive you,” he said, addressing his daughter’s kidnapper. “But please, let Yingying go.”
He spoke through a translator, telling his daughter, “Yingying, please be strong.”
The University of Illinois has the highest number of Chinese students of any American university, with 5,600 enrolled, according to the SCMP, but now many Chinese parents are worried about sending their children to American schools, fearing for their safety.
“Parents were very concerned,” said Robin Kaler, the associate chancellor for public affairs. “We obviously tell them that it is a very safe community in general, but that there are instances when horrible things can happen. And this is one instance.”
Zhang’s roommate from Peking University described her as “good at protecting herself,” while her boyfriend and father have insisted that she would never get into the car with a stranger unless forced.
Nearly three weeks after her disappearance, Zhang’s father is far from giving up.
“I will wait for you,” he said. “And we will definitely find you.”
By Caroline Roy
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