Jury selection and trial begins for man accused in disappearance of Zhang Yingying

China 24

Jury selection has begun in the trial of a man accused in the death of Chinese scholar Zhang Yingying. She disappeared two years ago in the state of Illinois.

CGTN’s Dan Williams reports.

It is a trial that is closely watched from the United States to China. The family of Zhang Yingying, the Chinese scholar who disappeared almost two years ago, arrived at Peoria’s federal courthouse in the state of Illinois for the first day of the trial.

Brendt Christensen is charged with abducting and killing Yingying. Her body has not been found. It is being prosecuted as a federal case, with Christensen facing the death penalty. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Christensen walked into the courthouse shortly before 9 a.m. wearing a blue shirt and beige trousers. The jury selection is expected to take more than a week. The judge told the court that the trial could last some two months in all.

But for Yingying’s family, there is some comfort the trial is underway.

“The family is glad that the trial has finally started and also, from all the attention that they understand that Yingying has not been forgotten, so in that sense it is a relief,” said Zhidong Wang, the Zhang family’s attorney.

Yingying was last seen getting into this car at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign on her way to view an off-campus apartment in June 2017. Authorities say Christensen was the driver.

Yingying’s mother is convinced Christensen kidnapped her daughter, and hopes he will give her back

Thousands of Chinese students at the school took part in a week-long search, and student representatives were at the court on Monday.

“At first, it was a pretty bad news to all the student body and then we just moved to caring about what is going on,” said Howard Yan, the Vice President of the Chinese Student Scholars Association at the university. “We want to know the investigation evolve. And we just want to know what the result will be.”