China's Consulate General in Chicago is demanding tougher punishment on the man who kidnapped Zhang Yingying, a visiting Chinese scholar at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), after the suspect was arrested Friday evening.
Chinese Consul General to Chicago Hong Lei visited Zhang's family on Saturday and said the Consulate General would urge the U.S. to severely punish the suspect, according to a notice released on the consulate's website on Sunday.
In an interview with the Xinhua News Agency, Hong said "we are heartbroken [when we heard the news]," and that is how all Chinese people feel about the case.
Hong called for a fair trial and continuous attention from UIUC. "Yingying is a student at UIUC, and her safety is closely related to the university."
Brendt Christensen, a 28-year-old resident of Champaign, Illinois, was charged with kidnapping Zhang, who authorities believe is dead.
Christensen was enrolled as a PhD candidate in experimental condensed matter physics at UIUC, but it was not clear if he was still studying at the university when he was arrested.
The affidavit filed alleges that on June 9, Christensen was driving the black Saturn Astra as it stopped next to Zhang near the UIUC campus. Zhang was last seen on security camera video entering the front passenger side of the vehicle.
On June 29, agents overheard Christensen, who was under law enforcement surveillance, explaining that he kidnapped Zhang. Based on this and other facts uncovered during the investigation, law enforcement agents believe that Zhang is no longer alive.
Christensen will remain in custody pending his initial court appearance in Urbana on Monday.
The three-storey building the suspect lived in is located some distance away from the UIUC campus.
A girl living at a nearby building witnessed the arrest of Christensen at his home Friday evening. She said 10 to 15 police officers carrying guns and leading dogs stormed into the first floor of the apartment, and took away the suspect.
Chinese police had tried to offer help in the case, Xinhua reported Saturday, saying that a Chinese expert in simulating portraits provided the suspect's portrait to U.S. authorities based on the low quality surveillance video, which turned out to be strikingly similar to the suspect. Zhang went missing on June 9 after she got into a black car about five blocks from where she alighted from a bus as she was heading to an apartment complex.