FBI offers US$10,000 reward for missing Chinese student feared kidnapped

Chinese scholar Zhang Yingying

The FBI is offering a US$10,000 reward for information that helps find a Chinese student, feared kidnapped, who went missing in Illinois in the United States 10 days ago.

The offer of a reward came as the 26-year-old woman’s family arrived in the United States over the weekend.

Fujian province born Zhang Yingying, a visiting scholar at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, was last seen on June 9 getting into a black Saturn Astra hatchback near the college campus.

The FBI are treating her disappearance as a kidnapping and say a white male suspect circled the area before stopping his car to talk to Zhang.

The FBI announced on Saturday it would offer up to US$10,000 for information that helped lead to her location.

Zhang’s family arrived in the small city about 200km from Chicago on Saturday where they met with the authorities and university officials.

“I have faith that my niece will eventually come back. This is all we can do, to keep believing,” Zhang’s aunt Ye Liqin told reporters.

The missing woman’s father, Zhang Ronggao, spent Father’s Day on Sunday searching for his daughter and told Chinese media finding her would be the best gift.

“When my daughter is found, I will never let her go back to the US,” he told the Beijing Youth Daily.

A University of Illinois spokeswoman, Robin Kaler, told the international network of the Chinese state broadcaster CCTV: “It’s hard on everybody. We just keep trying to be strong so that we can do our jobs and bring her home. That’s all we want, we just want her to come home.”

Over US$53,000 has already been donated into a fund to cover the Zhang family’s living expenses during the search. The university has arranged for them to stay on campus while the search continues, according to the police.

“Police officials are urging that community members not misinterpret a lack of updates as a sign that no progress is being made,” the University of Illinois Police Department Urbana-Champaign wrote on its website.

“Although the investigation is moving forward very quickly, we are unable to comment on many specifics of the case both to protect the integrity of the investigation and make sure we can find Ms Zhang as quickly as possible.”

The Chinese student arrived in the US about a month ago and planned to stay for a year researching photosynthesis and crop productivity at the university’s department of natural resources and environmental sciences.

Zhang was last heard from at 1.30pm on June 9 when she texted a property firm to tell them she would be late to sign a lease for a flat, police say. Zhang never showed up and attempts to contact her since have been unsuccessful.

Urbana is a city in Champaign county, Illinois, with a population of just over 41,000. – SCMP

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