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Doubts over misuse of donations for kidnapped Chinese scholar

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“This is definitely a tragedy. However, with over $130K in their pockets and a goal of half a million to collect, the family and the campaign organizer should update donors regularly if and how the funds were used for their stated purpose.”

“People should stop donating since the money is not even used to help search for Yingying anymore. Seems like the family and her boyfriend are just getting more and more greedy.”

These two are recent comments on the fundraising page “Yingying Zhang Family Emergency” on GoFundMe, a fundraising website. Zhang Yingying 章莹颖, a 26-year-old Chinese citizen, went missing on June 9 near the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she was a visiting scholar. A man was arrested for her abduction, and the police presume she is no longer alive, but have not found her remains. On June 17, her family started raising money to pay investigators to continue the search for her.

But internet users have started to cast doubts over whether Zhang’s family has been misusing the money. The amount of money they have raised has continued to grow, as they increased the fundraising goal from $15,000 to $150,000. However, the family has not disclosed what they have done with the money raised. To further complicate the issue, the aim of the fundraising campaign broadened from its initial stated goal of searching for Zhang, and now also says the money will be used to fulfill her will to “help her family.”

According to people close to the matter (in Chinese), Zhang’s family’s living expenses in the U.S. have been largely covered by local volunteers, who are still offering free transport and meals to them. The school also allowed them to live in a house on campus for free for a month.


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.