URBANA — The FBI says the search for a visiting Chinese scholar missing from the University of Illinois is a national priority for the agency.
Jon Holloway, assistant special agent in charge of criminal investigation at the Springfield FBI office, discussed the FBI’s efforts Thursday night at a campus meeting about 26-year-old Yingying Zhang’s disappearance.
Holloway’s words came the same day Zhang’s father made an emotional appeal for his child’s safe return, saying in an interview: “Give my daughter back.”
Ronggao Zhang, who arrived in central Illinois from China on Saturday, spoke to The (Champaign) News-Gazette through a translator. Yingying Zhang’s aunt, Liqin Ye, also traveled from China and wiped away tears as the father spoke.
“Ying, be strong. Dad is waiting for you here,” Ronggao Zhang said, addressing his daughter directly. “I hope that being a good person you will be safe forever.”
Ronggao Zhang said the family intended to stay in the United States as long as needed, adding, “We’re not leaving without her.”
Meanwhile, Holloway says updates are being regularly sent to the office of the FBI’s acting director and U.S. field offices.
Zhang was last seen on a surveillance video getting into a black Saturn Astra in Urbana on the afternoon of June 9. Police have labeled the case a kidnapping but haven’t ruled out other scenarios.