Family disappointed at US court ruling

By Dong Feng and Zhang Hui Source:Global Times Published: 2020/6/29 20:48:43

School may lose attraction for inaction in murder of Chinese scholar

Family members of visiting Chinese scholar Zhang Yingying head to a federal court in Peoria, Illinois, the United States, on June 24, 2019. Brendt Christensen, a former University of Illinois doctoral student, was found guilty Monday of kidnapping and murder charges. A 12-member jury at a federal court of Peoria, in the U.S. state of Illinois unanimously ruled that Christensen was guilty of kidnapping and killing Chinese visiting scholar Zhang Yingying in 2017. (Xinhua/Wang Ping)

The family of Chinese scholar Zhang Yingying, who was murdered in the US, has called the ruling of a court in the state of Illinois cruel and unacceptable and blamed the University of Illinois, whose mental health counselors failed to prevent the brutal murder, for being coldblooded and inhumane.

The court recently dismissed a civil lawsuit filed by Zhang's family against two social workers of the university. Champaign County Circuit Judge Jason Bohm said the two social workers didn't cause or contribute to Zhang's death, when dismissing the lawsuit last week. 

This was the second time a US court dismissed the civil lawsuit filed by Zhang's family. In December 2019, a federal court judge dismissed a similar action.

The rejections of the lawsuits, filed by the family to achieve fairness and justice through holding those responsible and seeking economic compensation, destroyed their hopes, Zhang's family attorney Wang Zhidong told the Global Times on Monday in a written statement. 

Although Zhang's family could appeal, Wang said the result might not be satisfactory. "The civil lawsuits have come to an end," Wang said. 

The case has triggered a backlash from Chinese netizens.

"Don't go to UIUC, and think twice before going to the US for study. Otherwise you may die in the US and your family will never know how and when you died," one netizen said on Weibo.

The university has about 5,800 Chinese students, accounting for half of its international students. 

Three years after Zhang's death, her remains have not been found, and her parents live in misery, Wang said. 

Zhang Ronggao, Zhang Yingying's father, told the Nanjing-based Yangzi Evening News in April that his wife suffered from a mental breakdown and the family had borrowed 600,000 yuan ($84,799). Zhang Ronggao, the family's main breadwinner, now earns 2,200 yuan a month. 

Hou Xiaolin, Yingying's boyfriend, told the Global Times on Monday that "Beyond the economic difficulty, the bigger problem is her parents' mental distress which has worsened recently after being hit by consecutive bad news."

Zhang's family believed that the court ruling was cruel and unacceptable, but what made them even more furious was the University of Illinois, which never formally apologized to Zhang's family after her death. 

In commenting on the lawsuit and whether the university will offer more help to Zhang's family, Robin Kaler, a university spokesperson, told the Global Times in an email on Monday that the university continues to grieve with Zhang's family and loved ones over her death, and stands by its social workers, their professionalism, and their commitment to the health and safety of students.

Zhang, a Chinese scholar at the University of Illinois, was found missing on June 9, 2017. She was murdered by Brendt Christensen, who was arrested later and was sentenced in July 2019 to life in prison. 

According to media reports, Christensen sought help from the university's mental health facility earlier in 2017, saying that he was "planning" a homicide after researching serial killers.

Christensen's father told ABC news in November 2019 that he believes his son's actions could have been prevented if the university counselors had taken proper action.

Some Chinese netizens expressed their outrage to the university and the "unfair" US legal system on Monday, as they believed that the university was also responsible for Zhang's death. 

"How can you say the university has nothing to do with Zhang's death when the two social workers could have reported Christensen's strange behavior and immediately intervened to prevent the tragedy?" one netizen commented on Weibo. 

Posted in: SOCIETY

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