Let’s talk about it: Yuan Xia Wang

This week’s “let’s talk about it” case is Yuan Xia Wang, a young Chinese girl who disappeared from Lincolnia, Virginia on October 21, 1998. I was just getting interested in missing persons at that time and I remember seeing her NCMEC poster right after she disappeared and wondering about it. Like most of their posters, it said very little, and it was years before I learned the details of her disappearance.

Yuan was smuggled into the country by a Thai man, using someone else’s genuine Thai passport. According to this Washington Post article, the immigration and customs people caught them after someone at the airport realized she didn’t speak Thai, and her smuggler was arrested.

Usually, Chinese immigrants who get smuggled into the U.S. are sent “to restaurants or brothels where they are held in virtual servitude to pay off huge smuggling fees.” Yuan’s case was somewhat unusual in that her passage was paid for in advance.

She said she was twelve, but the authorities doubted it and so do I. I was five feet even at that age, about middling height for the girls in my class at school, and I think Chinese people tend to be smaller than Americans. Yuan was five feet six. They thought she could have been as old as fifteen. I don’t know what reason she would have had to lie; perhaps she felt she would be better treated if they thought she was younger.

Yuan was sent to a foster home. Her foster family welcomed her as best they could, but they didn’t speak Mandarin, and she was the only Mandarin-speaking student at her new school. If I were her I’d have been desperately lonely. She vanished without a trace six weeks later — significantly, perhaps, on a day she had a doctor’s appointment.

They’re not sure what happened to her. The most obvious suggestions are that she either ran away or got picked up (voluntarily or otherwise) by someone, like a relative or someone involved in the smuggling, in order to avoid deportation. (The U.S. authorities hadn’t decided what to do with her yet; she could have been either deported or allowed to stay.) I suppose it’s possible she could have been abducted for reasons having nothing to do with her immigration status, as well.

Other than a lead placing her in Kansas City in 2008, there hasn’t been any sign of her in almost twenty years.

Let’s talk about it.

15 thoughts on “Let’s talk about it: Yuan Xia Wang

  1. Lauren December 15, 2016 / 10:49 pm

    So this 12 year old girl who speaks no English was supposed to take a cab and go to a doctor appointment by herself?!? Yeah that’s not gonna work out to well. How is she supposed to communicate with the cab driver or the medical staff? That’s even if she understood where she was supposed to go in the first place.

    You know I just imagine her walking down a street somewhere and running into someone (or a couple someones) who speak Mandarin and her asking them to get her the heck out of there.

    • Meaghan December 16, 2016 / 11:26 am

      She might have been able to find one. The Wikipedia entry says Lincolnia the most diverse town in Fairfax County and (as of the 2000 census, only two years after Yuan disappeared) 15% of the population was ethnically Asian. The DC area has lots of international folks. When I visited Washington DC in 2009 and stayed in Reston, VA (also in Fairfax county) I encountered a couple who spoke only Chinese, no English.

  2. Gria December 15, 2016 / 11:02 pm

    Sorry but I do not think this case matters and no Americans should concern themselves with what happened to some Chinese fencehopper. As you said, Chinese women tend to be quite petite and slight of stature. Frankly I would not be surprised if this “Yuan Xia Wang”, which probably was not even her real name by the way, was not indeed a full grown woman pretending to be a child in order to gain more sympathy from American authorities. So what if she was taken back by the shysters who sneaked her into the country to work off the debt she owes? She trusted these crooks with her life, therefore whatever happens is solely her own fault. While some would say her parents forced her, I must disagree. If my folks thought it was a good idea to pay a punch of criminals thousands of dollars to sneak me into Finland for example, I would NEVER give any thoughts to going along, because while my parents my think they’re doing me a favor, that would actually be about the worst situation a lone woman could find herself in. In any case it is not an American problem and not one single cent of tax payers’ money should be spent on this impostor!

    • Meaghan December 16, 2016 / 10:50 am

      Whatever crimes that take place on American soil are, by definition, American problems. I don’t know if you are for real or just a troll, but I find this post disgusting.

    • marsyao December 16, 2016 / 11:16 am

      What are you talking about Gria? It was back in the 90’s, China was far less developed at that time and Fujian was a poor province, so that girls was planning to come to US for a much better life. I know well about people from Jujian, a very poor place and land over there could not sustain all of their people, so they have a tradition to migrate to other countries, legal or not, for hundreds of years, as a result, they have a well function support network all over the world, I would bet her family knew those people organized to smuggle this little girl to US, in Fujian, these people were seen as well respected legit businessman.

    • Meaghan December 16, 2016 / 11:23 am

      Or, Gria, let me put this in another way, perhaps a way you can better understand: if the US suddenly decided to stop investigating and prosecuting people who smuggle people into the country and enslave them — because the victims are illegal immigrants and, if you had your way, should not be considered humans or given any human rights — it would become open season for human traffickers and they would ALL come from ALL OVER THE WORLD because they could do as they liked here. And as you pointed out, human traffickers are for the most part not good people, and would probably commit other crimes while they were at it, perhaps ones where the victims are American citizens (or “real human beings” in your way of thinking).

      So stuff it.

    • Bill December 16, 2016 / 3:36 pm

      You exhibit a shocking lack of compassion. You recommend that we should just not care about this missing human being? Really?

      I think there is a name for your illness. “Sociopathy.” And I bet you are a Trump supporter too. But now I am repeating myself.

    • Gaia227 December 18, 2016 / 3:05 am

      I had to read this more than once to even believe it. So you are saying a 12 year old girl (or 15, or 18 0r 50) deserves NO sympathy, should not be looked for, should not have any kindness extended to her because she is not an American? So because she is Chinese her life does not matter? Americans are just that superior to every other race?
      It is very apparent that you are very ignorant, you know nothing outside of your little bubble of facebook and fox news. The fact you said if your parents tried to do that to you as a 12 year old you just wouldn’t do it shows how very little you understand about the situation. A 12 year old female in america and a 12 year old female in China have very, very different realities. It is pointless to even try to explain it to a person such as yourself as its obvious how little intellectual curiousity you have about the world. You represent so much about what is wrong in this country. This country you love so much but I highly doubt you have any more than a rudimentary understanding of the history of our country.

    • Care May 31, 2022 / 12:00 am

      You don’t need to care, and frankly whether you care or not isn’t going to make a difference anyways, but just because the person isn’t American doesn’t mean it’s okay to have no empathy for a fellow human being. How would you feel if someone you knew and cared about somehow disappeared in a foreign country and those foreigners told you that they don’t care?

  3. marsyao December 16, 2016 / 8:45 am

    she could be picked up by her family, since her family was able to pay “a significant money” to have her smuggled In to US, I do not think they would simply give her up

    • marsyao December 16, 2016 / 8:51 am

      She came from Fujian province, a place that is well known in China for emigrating to other countries illegally, people there have plenty of experience in this business, all she need is to memorize a phone number to contact her family in US, and then her folks, who were most likely illegal immigrants too, could pick her at the first chance they have

  4. michael w. December 16, 2016 / 9:14 am

    Anyone here live in the Myrtle Beack/Florence area of South Carolina? Looking for someone to record the segment on Neil Brian Hooks scheduled to air on Monday. Willing to compensate.

  5. michael w. December 16, 2016 / 3:04 pm

    Well this certainly has been an eventful week on the blog, hasn’t it?

  6. Chris December 16, 2016 / 6:32 pm

    Gria, you are a charmer aren’t you. Thanks for letting me know I dont need to care about this case. “Chinese fence hopper” – good grief.

    Anyhow, limited info on the MP, presumably no DNA for comparison to Jane Does. Sounds like a tough one to ever resolve.

    Hopefully she is still out there happy and healthy, unaware nearly 20 years on her fate is being debated. If I had to guess I would say she is.

  7. Asha December 18, 2016 / 3:54 pm

    She is gone forever, because her situation was mishandled from the very beginning. She should NOT have been placed in a private foster home in any circumstances. After a complete physical determined her most likely age, which as others have said was most likely late teens or even early 20s, should have been placed in a professional shelter for those caught sneaking into the country. In such a place she would have been well monitored, had access to a doctor, and most importantly a Mandarin translator so there wouldn’t have been any need to speculate about whatever was on her mind. Even if she was under the age of 18, she certainly was not a normal child and did not belong either in foster care or an American school seeing as she spoke no English. I do not believe she was abducted back by the smugglers, because they were Thai and she Chinese and in suburban Virginia, this obvious strangers would have drawn the attention of neighbors who would have undoubtedly called the police. Therefore I am inclined to believe that this grown woman of her own free will, ran away because she knew “the jig was up” or so to speak. Furthermore I do not believe she is in Kansas City, because she did not need to go that far frankly. Lincolnia is about 10 miles from downtown Washington DC, where of course she would have easily found many fellow Chinese and Mandarin speakers. If she is still in the United States then she is most likely right under the nose of law enforcement living under her real name.

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