For Yingying Zhang, family came first

For Yingying Zhang, family came first

Yingying Zhang came to this country with one goal — to further her education, so she could take care of her family back in China.

“Since she was very young, she was very kind and really gets along with people, and she cares what happens to the people surrounding her,” her father, Ronggao Zhang, said in a recent interview with The News-Gazette. “She is very caring for her friends and other people she interacts with.”

On Saturday, the day after the FBI arrested Brendt Christensen, 28, in connection with Ms. Zhang’s kidnapping, authorities offered no new details about the case. They said Friday night they believe the visiting University of Illinois scholar is no longer alive, but Ms. Zhang has not been found.

A campus memorial tentatively planned for Saturday was called off by UI officials, per the wishes of Ms. Zhang’s family.

Anna Tsai, an assistant student affairs staff member who served as a translator for Ms. Zhang’s family, met with them Friday night when the arrest was announced.

“It was a very difficult time,” she said.

“At this point, all I can say is that the family is very devastated and very sad, and just needs to find a way to sort through this,” she said Saturday. “Obviously at this point, they’re still looking for the police to find Yingying.”

Ronggao Zhang; his sister-in-law, Liqin Ye; and Ms. Zhang’s boyfriend, Xiaolin Hou traveled to Champaign-Urbana from China on June 17 to join in the search for Yingying, who they described as serious-minded but fun and committed to her family and her education.

Ms. Zhang arrived in Champaign-Urbana on April 24. Although she had the opportunity to study at other universities, she chose the UI because of its “very prominent reputation in the field of agriculture,” said Hou, a Ph.D. student in agriculture at Peking University in China.

The other main reason Zhang chose the UI, Hou said, was because she received enough money from a grant to afford to live and study here. She didn’t want to be a financial burden to her parents, he said.

Neither of her parents went to college. Her father works as a truck driver at an electrical company, and her mother is a housewife. Her only sibling, brother Xin Yang Zhang, 24, did not go to college.

Ms. Zhang’s plan, family and friends said, was to ultimately become an agriculture professor — maybe in China, maybe elsewhere.

Family members described Ms. Zhang as a self-sufficient, hard-working and studious young woman committed to her family back in Nanping in southeastern China.

Ms. Zhang’s commitment to her studies left her little time for outside interests, although Hou said she likes to sing and plays the guitar. Her favorite song, friends said, was “The Rose,” by Bette Midler.

“Since she was in grade school, she was the head of the class,” her father said. “In grade school, they may have 30, 40, 50 students, and the teacher would appoint someone to be the ‘leader’ of that classroom. Typically, that position goes to the best student in the class. She was always in that role since she was in grade school.”

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danielfromthelionsden wrote on July 02, 2017 at 1:07 pm

May her soul rest in heaven peacefully. Burn in hell Brendt Christensen. God will issue the final judgement on you. No way to escape that. You will answer to him for certain. You will soon see how tough you really aren't. I hope they send you to the worst prison that is full of even bigger and more cruel monsters than you. There is always something bigger, badder, and more evil. I pray they ALL find you and rudely introduce themselves to you daily and continuously.

I hate how criminals get due process and are afforded all these special protections by the law after they break the law. Defense attorneys take money to protect killers from justice. Where is justice for her family? Why are there no guarantees for her and her family. This is where the justice system fails. It's not fair.