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FBI treating visiting scholar’s disappearance as kidnapping

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The FBI says it is treating the disappearance in Illinois of a 26-year-old Chinese visiting scholar as a kidnapping.

Yingying Zhang has been missing from the University of Illinois since June 9. Surveillance video from that day shows her getting into a car in Urbana.

Zhang can be seen standing by a tree as a black Saturn Astra pulls up next to her. She has a brief conversation with the driver before entering the vehicle.

University police said Zhang had gotten off a bus before the four-door hatchback approached her. Other surveillance video shows the car circling the area before stopping near Zhang.

Zhang had a yearlong position at the university. “She was about six weeks into her appointment as a scholar in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences when she disappeared,” said school spokeswoman Robin Kaler.

Rewards offered for information

Zhang’s family has teamed up with Champaign County Crime Stoppers to offer a $40,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in her disappearance.

“This is the largest award Crime Stoppers has ever granted since our inception,” said Champaign County Crime Stoppers President John Hecker.

“We’ve been in the business, if you will, for more than 30 years. And I think that underscores the importance of how we are looking upon this particular case.”

The FBI is also offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the location of the missing woman.

The University of Illinois Community Credit Union started a GoFundMe campaign with a goal of $30,000. The campaign’s purpose is to provide aid to the Zhang family to cover expenses as the search continues. The campaign had raised over $72,000 by Tuesday morning.