26-year-old Yingying Zhang was last seen on at the University of Illinois on Friday 9 June

The FBI says the search for missing Chinese scholar Yingying Zhang is now an agency national priority.

26-year-old Yingying Zhang was last seen on at the University of Illinois on Friday 9 June.

Zhang was seen on a surveillance video getting into a black Saturn Astra in Urbana. The police are labelling the case a kidnapping but are not ruling out other scenarios. The FBI said that the driver of the car appeared to be a white male who circled around the area “prior to making contact with Zhang.”

Assistant special agent in charge of criminal investigation at Springfield FBI office, Jon Holloway, said updates are being regularly sent to the FBI’s acting director’s office and 56 field offices.

“There are going to be a lot of questions about the investigation that I cannot answer. Anything I say here will be heard by the abductor,” he said. “It would jeopardize our efforts to locate her and to bring her abductor to justice.”

Holloway added that there are more agents working on this case than would normally be in the entire Springfield area. Chinese language posters are being created too.

Zhang’s aunt, father Ronggao Zhang and boyfriend Xiaolin Hou are staying in university housing as the search continues. Hou said, “We’re hoping to learn about the progress of the case.”

“Give my daughter back,” Zhang’s father said through an interpreter in an emotional appeal for finding his daughter in an interview with The News Gazette. “Ying, be strong, Dad is waiting for you here.”

The 26-year-old had arrived at the University of Illinois as a visiting scholar in the Department of Natural Resource and Environmental Sciences. A friend of Zhang said that her goal was to become a professor in the US or China.


Her father added that their family intended to stay in the US as long as needed, “We’re not leaving without her.”

Police Chief Jeff Christensen said in a Wednesday statement that investigators “continue to make progress” and “will not give up” until Zhang is found.

There is a $50,000 reward for any information that leads to finding Zhang. New photos of Zhang have also been released.

If you know anything, you’re asked to call the FBI or 9-1-1.