Family of kidnapped scholar remains hopeful, asks for government support


By Jessica Bursztynsky, News Editor

The family of Yingying Zhang, the scholar that was presumably kidnapped and is assumed dead, gave a press conference on Tuesday to speak about their current living conditions and recent pleas to President Donald Trump.

While Zhang’s aunt, boyfriend and father have been in the United States since June 17, Zhang’s mother and younger brother arrived on Aug. 19 from China.

Zhang’s mother was not initially healthy enough to make the trip to Champaign, said Xiaolin Hou, Zhang’s boyfriend.

“She must be hurried to get well,” Hou said of Zhang’s mother, adding that she fainted when she initially heard of Zhang’s kidnapping.

She’s currently “enduring the pain in her heart,” said Hou, who also noted she struggled to walk as her daughter remained missing.

There are three account trustees — one a former colleague of Zhang in the College of ACES — appointed to the GoFundMe account in honor of Zhang’s family, which helps pay for legal fees, daily living expenses and travel.

The family is currently renting a home for six months in Urbana as they continue to search for the missing 26-year-old woman.

Hou said that Zhang’s father spends each day by walking to Zhang’s former apartment.

“The only way he have (sic) to cure his wound,” Hou said of Zhang’s father’s actions.

“The way the FBI works we totally understand and respect their ways,” Hou said. But he does feel “helpless” with the situation as the family has not been briefed regarding the case’s details.

The Zhang family wrote a letter to both President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Aug. 11 to ask for aid from “all available federal law enforcement and investigatory resources.”

Hou added that he hopes Trump will support in any way possible.

Neither Hou nor Zhang’s family say they are planning on leaving anytime soon without Zhang, whether she is dead or alive.

It is in Chinese culture to allow the dead to have a proper burial, said Hou, adding that it would be in Zhang’s wishes to be with her family.

The family has not begun working on the case independently because the FBI is still investigating the case. The family has not raised enough funds to hire a private investigator, said Emily Lux, who has been aiding the family.

Lux estimated a private investigation to cost anywhere from $500,000 to $1,000,000.

In order to show continued support for Zhang, Robin Kaler, associate chancellor for public affairs, announced a yellow ribbon campaign on Tuesday.

The first 1,000 people to donate to Zhang’s GoFundMe page can receive a pin made of yellow ribbon at four different locations. She said she hopes it will help raise awareness as well.

While at the conference, University Chancellor Robert Jones presented the family with a recreation of Zhang’s diary. The initial one is currently being held as evidence.

“None of us has the words that can take away the sadness,” Jones said, but added he hoped Zhang could.

Though the majority of the diary is written in Chinese, the final sentence was written in English and read by her boyfriend Xiaolin Hou at the press conference.

“Life is too short to be ordinary,” Zhang wrote.

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