Illustration: Luo Xuan/GT
Since I'm a foreigner in a country far from home, my parents are always worried about me. I usually shrug it off as "that's just how parents are," but in reality, their fear is not unwarranted. Recently, a Chinese girl has gone missing in the US. Yingying Zhang, a 26-year-old visiting scholar, has been missing since June 9, in a college town in Illinois, US.
This has caused uproar in the US and locally in China. Zhang was last seen getting into a black Saturn Astra hatchback, and her last outgoing message was to a housing agent saying that she would be late to sign the lease. The FBI is treating the case as a kidnapping and is offering a $10,000 reward for information that leads to the girl, while the University of Illinois and Champaign County Crime Stoppers are offering an additional reward of $40,000.
The student is described as reserved and careful. In an NBC report update, family friend Dr. Kim Tee said, "We have no record of where she is at. She's very reserved, and she doesn't know anyone else besides her boyfriend, a few other classmates and teachers." The lack of information on her disappearance is troubling, and her boyfriend Hou Xiaolin was quoted saying, "I wish the process in the US could be faster; everything is moving so slow."
When I learned about the incident, the first thing that came to my mind was how different security in the US is compared to China. In China there are cameras on every corner. In reports of criminal activity, you will usually read something along the lines of, "CCTV footage shows…" Almost 12 days have passed since Zhang's disappearance, and there is only some footage of her getting into the car and earlier entering and exiting a public bus. Unfortunately, even with all the effort from the local police and the FBI, as well as grassroots campaigns and a GoFundMe campaign for the family's living expenses while in the US, the girl has still not been found.
In a report from the FBI's National Crime Information Center, as of December 31, 2016, there are 88,040 active missing person records in the US. While surveillance cameras could not have reduced that number to zero, it makes me wonder if my home country should take a page out of China's book when it comes to security. When people ask me if I feel safe in China, I immediately respond, "Yes!" In fact, I feel safer in China than I ever did in the US.
While some back home may be put off by pictures of China where guards are standing on every street or subway exit and now, even in subway cars, I see all the effort as reassuring. I feel safe when I walk back to my apartment at 2 am down a hutong alley, and I love that feeling. Don't get me wrong, things happen in China. I was personally assaulted by another foreigner a few months back. By the next day, the footage from the CCTV camera and messages sent in WeChat groups had the perpetrator identified.
In the case of Zhang, I think if there were more cameras and security measures in place at the time of the incident, she would already be safe in the arms of her family and loved ones. All we can do now is hope for the best and believe that the FBI and local authorities can bring her back.
But keeping our fingers crossed wouldn't solve cases and deter potential criminals. Missing security measures makes it hard to track missing persons and more cameras could spare parents the anguish Zhang's family is going through.
This article was published on the Global Times Metropolitan section Two Cents page, a space for reader submissions, including opinion, humor and satire. The ideas expressed are those of the author alone, and do not represent the position of the Global Times.