CHINA / National

Desert team set off to identify body
By Jia Hepeng (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-04-15 07:24

Former colleagues of a famous Chinese scientist who went missing in a desert more than 25 years ago have joined an exploration team to try to identify a body found there.

Last night they were deep inside the Lop Nur desert in the northwestern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region where Peng Jiamu went missing in June 1980 during a scientific exploration.

The expedition team, who set off on Friday morning, were not available for interview because there were no phone signals in the area.

Peng was a famous scientist in his 50s who had been working in Xinjiang's deserts for 30 years looking for oil and other resources when he disappeared.

Yu Bin, a Xinhua News Agency reporter working on the story, said several scientists who used to work with Peng were in the expedition team.

"They will drive to the location of the corpse to identify whether it is Peng from the clothes and belongings which are still there, and will also take samples from the body for DNA testing," Yu said.

The scientists will compare the results with DNA from Peng's relatives.

The body was discovered by Dong Zhiguo, a scientist with the Lanzhou-based Institute of Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), during an exploration last winter.

It was found near where Peng was reported to have gotten lost. Scientists say the area is very remote and few people travel through it.

Zhang Xiaojun, an official with the Institute of Cold and Arid Regions, told China Daily his institute has supported the identification work by offering scientists and other staff and facilities.

Xia Xuncheng, Peng's colleague and a former director of Lanzhou Institute of Desert under CAS, is also in the exploration team.

Born in Guangdong Province in 1925, Peng was the vice-president of the Xinjiang Branch of CAS when he disappeared.

On June 17, 1980, Peng left his expedition team's camp in Lop Nur to go looking for water, but never returned.

(China Daily 04/15/2006 page2)