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Family of missing scholar accounts for funds

By Zhang Ruinan in New York | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-08-30 11:32

The family of missing Chinese scholar Zhang Yingying wrote an open letter on Tuesday responding to questions over the use of donations they have received. In the letter, the family addressed the 11 questions most often raised by the public regarding the family's living conditions, plans and the use of funds raised.

After the Zhang's family arrived on June 17, a GoFundMe campaign was launched by the university to help the family with expenses during the search. The fundraising target was raised from $150,000 to $500,000 on Aug 3.

According to the fundraising page, about 3,300 people have contributed more than $150,000 to date. Some donors have questioned the rising goal and voiced concerns about how the money is being used.

"The fund raising target increased from 15K to 30K to 50K to 100K to 150K and to 500K in just over a month without any explanations," netizen Nina Lawyer commented on the GoFundMe page. "The fundraising purpose was changed from searching for Yingying to supporting her family without letting everyone know."

"We will open a blog to keep the public updated about how we use the fundraising money and respond to comments on the GoFundMe page," the family wrote in the letter.

They stated that the reason for a fundraising goal of $500,000 is to hire a private investigator in the case because the FBI has yet to have any breakthroughs on Yingying's whereabouts. They estimate the cost for such a private investigation to be between $500,000 and $1 million.

Family members also indicated that they had no intention of immigrating to the United States. Some say they will return to China to save on living expenses, but they will make sure at least one of them stays in the US to search for Yingying and help with the FBI's investigation.

In the letter, the family explained in detail that $900 of the funds was for visa application fees; $2,061 was for the family's travel ($390 for the mother, father, brother and aunt's train tickets from Nanping to Beijing and $1,671 for the father, boyfriend and aunt's airplane tickets from Beijing to Chicago); $50,000 was designated as a reward for any person who provides clues in the case; and $4,815 for legal fees.

"Our primary goal is still to find Yingying, and we won't use the funds for other reasons than that," the family wrote in the letter. "Living in the US is very expensive, we are trying our best to save money for searching for Yingying. Her aunt has already returned to China on Aug 28 after the mother arrived."

Zhang, a visiting scholar at the University of Illinois, has been missing since June 9. Brendt Christensen, a former graduate student at the university, has been charged with kidnapping in her disappearance. A US District Court trial has been scheduled for Feb 27.


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