UIUC visiting Chinese scholar feared dead as suspect arrested

Updated 2017-07-02 09:46:29 Xinhua

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) visiting Chinese scholar Zhang Yingying, who was kidnapped on June 9, is feared dead.

FBI arrested 28-year-old Brendt Christensen Friday on criminal complaint that charges him for kidnapping Zhang on June 9, 2017. Christensen was enrolled as a PhD candidate in experimental condensed matter physics by UIUC but it was not clear if he was still studying at the university when he was arrested.

The affidavit filed alleges that on June 9, Christensen was driving the black Saturn Astra as it stopped next to Zhang on the brink of UIUC campus at approximately 2:00 pm. Zhang was last seen on security camera video entering the front passenger side of the vehicle.

On June 29, agents overheard Christensen, who was under law enforcement surveillance, explaining that he kidnapped Zhang. Based on this and other facts uncovered during the investigation of this matter, law enforcement agents believe that Zhang is no longer alive.

Christensen will remain in law enforcement custody pending his initial federal court appearance in Urbana scheduled on Monday, July 3.

The three-storey building the suspect lived in is a bit far from the UIUC campus. Besides the building, there is a swimming pool, where people keep coming and going. The FBI, the University of Illinois Police Department officers were busy inspecting the building Saturday noon, blocking all other than residents of the building from getting in. The officers occasionally carried out some paper bags and put them in the cars.

A girl living in a neighboring building witnessed the arrest of Christensen at his home Friday evening. She said 10 to 15 police officers, carrying guns and leading dogs, stormed into the first-floor apartment, and took away the suspect.

Being advised of Christensen's arrest and the evidence in the possession of the FBI Friday night, Chinese Consul General in Chicago Hong Lei visited Zhang's family at Urbana-Champaign Saturday morning, sending condolences and offering support.

In an interview with Xinhua, Hong said "we are heartbroken (when hearing the news)," and that is also the feeling of all Chinese people that are concerned with the case. Hong condemned the brutality of the suspects, and urged U.S. judiciary to thoroughly investigate the case and bring the suspect to justice.

Chinese Government pays high attention to the case, and Chinese Embassy in the U.S. and Chinese Consulate in Chicago have kept negotiating with U.S. departments, in an effort to push for early finding of Zhang, Hong said.

Hong calls for fair trial of the case and continuous attention from the UIUC. "Yingying is a student at UIUC, and her safety is closely related to the university."

The most important concern of Zhang's family is still to find her. "We will push for continuous search of Yingying by the police, follow the case and offer help to Yingying's family in follow-up matters," Hong said.

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