Yingying Zhang, a Chinese female graduate student who disappeared in broad daylight in the U.S. state of Illinois on June 9, has not been found yet. Brendt Christensen, the man charged in Zhang’s kidnapping, hasn’t revealed anything useful to the police. As time passes by, Zhang’s family is getting more and more desperate and Chinese media have turned more and more critical, blaming the U.S. democratic system for its ineffectiveness and incompetence in the case.
Xinhua, the Chinese official news agency, launched a series of special reports, under the title of “Where is Yingying? The abduction case tests U.S. rule of law,” attacking the incompetence of the U.S. police and the ineffectiveness of U.S. rule of law.
The first most condemned point is that the police tracked down Christensen through his car on June 12, but didn’t arrest him until June 29. Every minute wasted by the police, according to Xinhua’s interpretation, directly increased the possibility of Zhang’s death.
Even after the police obtained an audio recording of Christensen discussing abducting Zhang, the police still couldn’t make the suspect talk.
Xinhua also points to the long and complicated procedure of court hearings and prosecution in the United States, which will be a second blow to the victim’s family. The article also criticized the fact that Illinois has abolished the death penalty, which according to Xinhua means it will be impossible to bring an extreme criminal to justice.
Xinhua also attacked the principle of presumption of innocence, the fundamental cornerstone of the U.S. rule of law, which might help the criminal get away from punishment in practice.
The series of criticism won much approval from Chinese netizens. Some Chinese netizens even blamed U.S. racism for the ineffective response, arguing that the police haven’t tried their best because of Zhang’s race and nationality. They compared Zhang’s abduction with another case in China: one Japanese young man reported to the Chinese police that his bicycle was stolen in Wuhan city. The whole city’s policemen were mobilized and found his bicycle within three days.
Despite the hash criticism, some other Chinese media still tried to defend the U.S. rule of law, arguing that the U.S. Fifth Amendment is a fundamental protection of human rights. And some Chinese netizens who agree with this point of view also explained the principle of presumption of innocence by quoting Blackstone’s formulation: “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.”
In return, their opponents counter-argued: “Better for whom?”
Clearly, Zhang’s case has become a fuse for Chinese people to ponder U.S. democracy and its fundamental principles.