Donald Trump

Family of kidnapped Chinese student Zhang Yingying asks Trump for help

US president is urged to provide more resources to find Zhang Yingying, who police believe was killed after she was abducted in Illinois

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 August, 2017, 9:22am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 August, 2017, 1:48pm

Family members of a Chinese student presumed kidnapped in Illinois asked US President Donald Trump on Tuesday to provide more resources to help find her.

Zhang Yingying, a 26-year-old visiting scholar at the University of Illinois from southeast China, disappeared on June 9. Police believe Zhang is dead, although no body has been found.

Brendt Christensen, a former master’s student at the university, has been charged with abducting Zhang. Christensen, 28, pleaded not guilty to the kidnapping last month and is expected to stand trial in September.

Zhang’s father, Zhang Ronggao, cited the president’s own role as a father in a letter sent to Trump earlier this month and read by Zhang’s boyfriend, Hou Xiaolin, at a news conference on Tuesday.

“As a loving father to your own children, you can understand what we are going through,” the letter said. “We fervently request that you direct all available federal law enforcement and investigatory resources be used to find our daughter as soon as possible.”

A White House representative could not immediately be reached for comment.

Hundreds demand ‘justice for Yingying’ as kidnap suspect makes first court appearance

Hou also told reporters at the news conference in Champaign, Illinois, that he and the family would not return to China until Zhang was found.

An online fundraising platform has collected more than US$137,000 to support the family’s stay in the United States.

The case has been watched closely by Chinese media, China government officials and Chinese students in the US.

Zhang, who had been studying photosynthesis and crop productivity, was last seen when a security camera recorded her getting into a black car that the authorities linked to Christensen, according to court documents.

Christensen was placed under surveillance by federal agents who heard him talking about how he kidnapped Zhang, court records said. He could receive a life sentence if convicted.

Christensen’s lawyer, Anthony Bruno, said in a phone interview on Tuesday that the defence received more than 1,000 pages of police reports related to the case earlier this month and expects to gain access to video evidence soon.

Suspect pleads not guilty to kidnapping Chinese scholar in US

Bruno said the defence plans to request a delay to the start of the trial to get more time to review the “enormous” amount of evidence received from the government.

A spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Springfield, Illinois, office referred questions to US Attorney spokeswoman Sharon Paul.

Paul said in a phone interview on Tuesday that prosecutors have no update on Zhang’s whereabouts and declined to provide details of the FBI’s search efforts.