Agendas on display in some reports about missing scholar

Agendas on display in some reports about missing scholar

URBANA — The kidnapping case of Yingying Zhang has grabbed the attention of those all over the world — including state-run Chinese news outlets.

Media organizations, including China Central Television, Xinhua and People's Daily, have consistently dedicated resources to providing coverage of the case since Ms. Zhang, a visiting Chinese scholar, was reported missing June 9.

CCTV's Washington, D.C.-based outlet sent a crew to stay in Urbana this week when Ms. Zhang's alleged kidnapper, Brendt Christensen, made two appearances in federal court.

But not all outlets are reporting the news in the way that Charlie Li, president of the Chinese American Association of Central Illinois, wishes they would.

Li, who attended Christensen's detention hearing on Wednesday in Urbana, said he has noticed a lot of false information being spread through social media and news outlets.

Chinese outlets have been producing stories for readers' eyes and more internet clicks, Li said.

In a July 3 story by People's Daily, an unnamed reporter wrote, "Analysts say that the tragedy of the kidnapped visiting Chinese scholars reveals that China is much safer than the U.S."

The story went on to contrast the Chinese and American governments, suggesting that Ms. Zhang's case was not prioritized because she is not a taxpaying U.S. citizen.

Reporters working for state-run Chinese outlets have declined to comment, due to strict government regulations.

But they have it wrong, said Li, who said he has grown to love Champaign-Urbana over the past two decades.

Despite this case, which remains an active investigation despite the FBI's belief that Ms. Zhang is no longer alive, Champaign is still one of the best places to live, Li said, and the University of Illinois still has some of the nation's top academic programs.

Among the dozens of reporters at the Urbana courthouse on Wednesday was CoCo Qiu, a Chicago-based reporter for the independent news organization Sinovision.

While she has noticed false stories being shared on WeChat, a popular Chinese social-media site, Qiu said she considers it her responsibility to report the truth.

"I want the facts," Qiu said.

Yet she also understands the high interest in Ms. Zhang's disappearance in China, where a reporter asked Geng Shuang, the country's foreign ministry spokesperson, for a comment on the FBI's handling of the case.

"We urge the U.S. judicial department to hear this case impartially in accordance with the law, hold the perpetrator accountable and uphold justice," Shuang said.

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Khristine wrote on July 08, 2017 at 1:07 pm
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Maybe someone should explain to the Chinese media that had this been an American woman, a majority of these resources would have never been used. She'd likely be "missing" with zero clue of what happened to her or whom took her. That Ying Ying Zhang was a visiting scholar from China is what caused the attention to this case. Violence against women in this country is hardly rare. 

mauricelageorge wrote on July 09, 2017 at 4:07 am

Khristine, you are spreading fake news like CNN did on President Trump. Are you colluding with the writer of this story by spreading some agenda driven propaganda here?  

First, It is a shame for UI Police and FBI taking 22 days to arrest the suspect with video footage available. If this happens in China, a rookie Chinese detective could resolve this case less than 22 days because all necessary tips are available. Second, if this is a Chinese man killed an American woman in China, I bet you there will be a death penalty. For this man, oh, we Illinois have human rights for murders, but no human rights for the victim. Illinois has no death penalty and he will get parole 35 years after imprisonment. In the last, if you'll "concerned citizen" could divert 1% of the time on fighting against Chinese media to pressuring FBI and UI Police do their job, I think America will be a better place. Otherwise, I feel my tax dollars go wasted. 


champaign61821 wrote on July 10, 2017 at 1:07 pm

You clearly have no idea what you are talking about. They had him under digital and audio surveilance so that they could get more concrete evidence or find out what he did with her. You don't just arrest him immediately, because you have to charge him within a certain time or release him. This isn't even an Illinois criminal case, so your arguements about the dealth penalty in Illinois are moot. This is a federal case and federal sentencing guidelines are very clear and have been reported many times. Kidnapping carries a charge of up to life in prison. If they can prove she was murdered, the sentence is either life in prison or the death penalty. However, there are very few federal death row inmates that are actually put to death.

wayward wrote on July 08, 2017 at 3:07 pm

US law is tricky and a false step could cause problems down the road. For example, investigators can't "make" Brendt Christensen tell them anything, no matter how badly they need information. Any evidence that the judge rules was obtained illegally can be excluded from a trial, which might make it less likely that a defendant will be convicted. "Double jeopardy" is also prohibited, which means that once a defendant is acquitted, s/he can't be tried for the same crime again. So the investigators and prosecutors have to make sure they get everything right the first time.

At this point, they've just charged him with kidnapping, which means they can lock him up for a long time if he's convicted. If a body later turns up, they can then charge him with murder, which carries a potential death sentence in federal court. (They could also charge him with murder without a body, but that's harder to prove.)

Psychopaths who prey on strangers have often been tough to catch, no matter what race or nationality their victims are. Ted Bundy is a prime example of this, but there have been others.