Missing student's family arrives in U.S., FBI offers reward

Updated 2017-06-19 13:35:46 China Daily
A photo of Zhang Yingying released by the police. Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn

A photo of Zhang Yingying released by the police. Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn

The father of a Chinese student missing from a Midwestern university campus since June 9 met with law enforcement and university officials on Saturday after arrival in the U.S. on the same day.

Zhang Yingying's father Zhang Ronggao, her aunt and her boyfriend Hou Xiaolin met with law enforcement and university officials accompanied by officials from China's Consulate General in Chicago, according to the University of Illinois police department's website.

The University of Illinois Community Credit Union has set up an account to raise money to cover the family's living expenses on campus. According to World Journal, as of June 18 the fund had reached ,463 with contributions from 1,070 people, exceeding the goal of ,000.

A tweet from The Federal Bureau of Investigation said it is now offering a reward of up to ,000 for information leading to the location of Zhang, 26, who was last seen near the north end of the campus when she boarded a Champaign-Urbana mass transit bus on June 9.

Police confirmed Zhang was wearing a charcoal-colored baseball cap, a pink and white long-sleeved flannel shirt, jeans, white tennis shoes and was carrying a black backpack, and exited the West Springfield and North Mathews avenue at 1:52 pm local time.

Zhang was then captured on security cameras talking to a white male through the window of a black Saturn Astra, five blocks from where she got off the bus, the same day. Zhang got into the vehicle and it drove off.

The FBI, which has joined Illinois State Police and the University of Illinois Police Department in the search for Zhang, listed the case as kidnapping on its website.

Concerned residents and students have, under the direction of the UIUC Chinese Students and Scholars Associations (UIUC CSSA), distributed flyers around the city in what they describe as a "carpet search mission".

"On Thursday, volunteers embarked on eight different routes throughout the greater vicinity of Champaign County to hang up flyers in surrounding villages," a UIUC CSSA representative said.

The University of Illinois Police Department, the Office of the Dean of Students and the International Student and Scholar Services held a forum to share information about the ongoing investigation on June 15.

Officials suggested preventative measures for students and faculty to prevent future incidents of this nature. The school has expressed interest in increasing the numbers of cameras on campus and providing self-protection education to incoming international students and current students.

Patrick Wade, spokesman of the UIUC Police Department, said officers were working around the clock for Zhang's return.

"We have officers coming in on their days off and staying late after their shifts to review the video, in order to identify and speak with potential witnesses and analyze electronic information," he said.

"There are dozens of police officers working on this case."

The university police department's website said that detectives have been using vehicle records to identify a number of registered owners of the type of vehicle in the video.

"Investigators continue to utilize image enhancing technology available through the FBI," the website said. "Information about the search is being shared widely, reaching more than 1 million people on social media, on billboards throughout the state, and through media both locally and throughout the country."

The UIUC Police Department further encouraged the public to continue sharing accurate information on social media to spread awareness about Zhang's disappearance, as well as print and distribute the bulletin to local businesses.

"Although the investigation is moving forward very quickly, we are unable to comment on many specifics of the case in order to protect the integrity of the investigation and make sure we can find Ms. Zhang as quickly as possible," a representative from the department said.

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