Man arrested for Chinese scholar’s disappearance in U.S. - SupChina

Man arrested for Chinese scholar’s disappearance in U.S.

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On July 3, Brendt Allen Christensen, a physics graduate student at the University of Illinois, will appear in federal court on charges of abducting 26-year-old Chinese visiting scholar Zhang Yingying 章莹颖, CNN reports. Investigators believe that Zhang, missing for more than three weeks, is dead, although her body has not yet been found.

Zhang disappeared on June 9 on her way to sign an apartment lease. While waiting at a bus stop, Zhang was approached by a black Saturn Astra. The suspect’s car, according to an FBI Special Agent, “appears to have passed (Zhang) at the bus stop and circled the block back to her location.” After talking for a few minutes, the scholar got into the car and has been missing since then.

Though the driver’s identity was difficult to tell from the surveillance video, the police spotted Christensen because there were only 18 four-door Saturn Astras registered in Champaign County, Illinois. When reached by the police on June 12, Christensen initially denied that he had met Zhang before. But three days later, when authorities interviewed him again, Christensen admitted that he gave Zhang a ride and let her off a few blocks away from where he had picked her up. The latest evidence shows that Christensen visited a website called FetLife back in April, on which there is an “Abduction 101” forum with a thread entitled “Planning a Kidnapping.”

The kidnapping case has attracted a lot of attention (in Chinese) on the Chinese internet, with many people questioning the FBI’s competence and enthusiasm for the investigation. “The reason why they are so slow at this is because the victim is a Chinese student. The case didn’t do any harm to American citizens or American interests! They only care about human rights of an American citizen!” wrote a very energetic commenter on the Chinese social platform Sina Weibo. Other internet users expressed disappointment at the FBI’s lack of interrogation skills. One commenter wrote, “Please send the criminal to China. We have more than 1,000 methods to force him to confess.”


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Jiayun Feng

Jiayun was born in Shanghai, where she spent her first 20 years and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism at Fudan University. Interested in writing for a global audience, she attended the NYU Graduate School of Journalism for its Global & Joint Program Studies, which allowed her to pursue a journalism career along with her interest in international relations. She has previously interned for Sixth Tone and Shanghai Daily.