As Yan Sihong’s family grieves, here are other Chinese students who went missing abroad. Some have never been found

By | Mar 02, 2018 02:24 PM EST
Mourners pay tribute to Chinese student Zhang Yao who was studying in Rome when she was apparently hit by a train.
(Photo : Photo: AP)

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Mourners pay tribute to Chinese student Zhang Yao who was studying in Rome when she was apparently hit by a train.

A Chinese overseas student was found dead at her home in London this week.

Yan Sihong, 35, who was studying for her doctorate at King's College London, had gone missing almost two weeks earlier.

As her family await the results of an autopsy, London police have said her death is not being treated as suspicious.

About 800,000 Chinese students studied overseas in 2015, according to Unesco estimates. Most return safely but some have not been found or met violent ends.


Zhang Yingying, United States

The 26-year-old visiting scholar disappeared in June last year. She was last seen on surveillance footage stepping into a black car with a man on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus on June 9. Later that month, the FBI arrested her suspected abductor Brendt Christensen, 28, charging him with Zhang's kidnapping and killing. The authorities believe she is dead, but her body has not been found. Prosecutors have accused Christensen of torturing Zhang before killing her. His next trial date is in April 2019.

Tiemuzhen Chalaer, Australia

The 24-year-old Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School student was last seen walking into dense bush after a Sydney dance party in August 2016. His shoes, with the socks tucked inside, were found about 400 metres from his campsite. Despite extensive searches in the bushland, Chalaer has never been found. He has type 1 diabetes and did not have his insulin on him when he went missing.


Zhang Yao, Italy

The 20-year-old student at Rome's Academy of the Fine Arts disappeared in December 2016. Her body was found five days later in a bush next to a railway line. Police said it appeared she had been hit by a moving train when trying to run after thieves who stole her bag. Her bag contained a residency permit she had just been issued.


Li Yangjie, Germany

Architecture student Li, then 25, was studying at the Anhalt University of Applied Sciences in Dessau, Germany. She went missing on May 11, 2016, and her naked body was found two days later in a bush. Sebastian Flech, 22, and his girlfriend Xenia Lang, 21, lured Li to an empty flat where she was repeatedly raped and murdered. Flech was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder, while Lang was jailed for 5½ years for sexual assault.

Mengmei "Michelle" Leng, Australia

In April 2016, the 25-year-old University of Technology, Sydney graduate told friends she was heading off for an afternoon of shopping. Her naked body was found floating face down near the coastline three days later, but it was another three days before police were able to identify her body. Derek Barrett, the husband of Leng's aunt, was sentenced to 46 years in jail in December after he tortured his niece and stabbed her to death before dumping her body in a blowhole.

Shao Tong, United States

Shao went to the United States to study engineering at Iowa State University. The 20-year-old was reported missing by her roommate in September 2014 and police found her rotting body eight days later in the boot of a car. Her Chinese-born boyfriend Li Xiangnan, then 23, had been studying at University of Iowa but fled to China after her death. He turned himself in to Chinese authorities in 2015 and stood trial last year for her murder. During the trial in Wenzhou, in Zhejiang province, he claimed he was "deeply in love" with Shao although he said she had been having affairs with other men. He was sentenced to life in prison in June last year.

Lin Jun, Canada

The 33-year-old Concordia University student was reported missing in Montreal in May 2012, five days after he was last seen entering his lover Luka Magnotta's flat. A day before he was reported missing, a cleaner found the torso of a man in a suitcase. Packages containing severed feet and hands were mailed to two political parties and two schools in Vancouver. Lin's skull was found after an international manhunt, and Magnotta, a porn actor and white supremacist, was arrested. In 2014, the then 32-year-old was sentenced to life in prison for killing and dismembering Lin.

Li Jiayi, also known as Kiko, New Zealand

The 18-year-old's body was found in the boot of her car in Hamilton in June 2010, nearly two weeks after she went missing. Li had been doing a business course in Auckland. The teenager's friends Yu Honglin and Li Yongxin, who were aged 20 and 18 at the time, were found guilty of murder and were sentenced to life in prison. The pair stabbed her to death as she sat in her car, and tried to steal money from her bank account but did not know her PIN.

Zhang "Tina" Yu, Australia

The body of the 27-year-old University of Tasmania accounting student was found at a remote stretch of a river near Hobart in June 2009, days after her friends reported her missing after spending a night out. She had earlier accepted the offer of a lift from two men outside a pizza shop. In June 2010, local Stavros Papadopoulos was sentenced to life in prison for Yu's murder. He had bludgeoned Yu with a concrete brick before strangling and drowning her, the court heard. His friend Daniel Joseph Williams, who smoked cannabis as Yu was being killed, was found guilty of manslaughter.

Wan Biao, New Zealand

Nineteen-year-old Wan's partially decapitated body was found in a suitcase bobbing in Auckland's Waitemata Harbour in April 2006. Fellow Chinese students Li Zheng and Cui Xiangxin were found guilty of kidnapping and murdering Wan, and were sentenced to 18 years in prison. The pair and a third man, Wang Yuxi, demanded NZ$800,000 from Wan's parents who were in China, but by the time police were alerted Wan's body had been found by sailors. The men played cards together before Wan's death.

Wei "Amanda" Zhao, Canada

In October 2002, the 21-year-old student at Coquitlam College went missing while walking to the grocery store in Burnaby, near Vancouver. Her body was found two weeks later stuffed in a suitcase near a lake. Zhao's live-in boyfriend, Li Ang, then 18, a fellow Chinese student in Canada, was the main suspect and fled to China. Canadian authorities tried to extradite Li but Beijing put him on trial, finding him guilty and sentencing him to life imprisonment in 2012. In 2014, the court downgraded his conviction to manslaughter on appeal and cut the sentence to seven years.

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