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.

MP of the week: Keith Chau

This week’s featured MP is Keith Chau, who disappeared with his wife, Ai Wei Kaung. They’re missing under unclear circumstances and may be living in Vietnam or southern China. It seems like that should be easy enough to check; at least the police could tell whether or not they’d left this country.

Make-a-List Monday: Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese people

MPs who are originally from China, Japan and Vietnam. I decided it was sufficient if the person was just raised there, even if I don’t know for sure they were born there. Needless to say, there’s probably quite a few people I missed, since I rarely find out an MP’s national origin.

China
Lian Fan Feng
Jie Zhao Li
Qingping Ouyang
Xiang Sun
Yim Yeung Tsui
Yuan Xia Wang
Sifeng Wu
Wengsheng Zheng
Yinzhou Zheng

Japan
James P. Higham III
Keisuke Koizumi
Masuko Makoto
Hiroko Nemoto
Masumi Watanabe
Frederic Hiro Yamamoto

Vietnam
Hiep T. Luu
Van Thay Nguyen
Ducong Trinh
Khoi Dang Vu

My first Executed Today entry of the year

This one is Chinese serial killer Zhang Yongming, who ate his victims’ flesh and turned his neighbors into unwitting cannibals by selling the meat at market, just like Fritz Haarmann did in Weimar Germany.

I’m assuming Zhang passed the meat off as ostrich meat because not many people have eaten ostrich and so they wouldn’t know the difference. (That was pretty clever of him actually.) You can buy ostrich meat online; I looked it up and learned that it’s red meat, more like beef, rather than like chicken.

Yuan Xia Wang

I found some additional articles about Yuan Xia Wang and updated her case with a lot more detail today. A citizen of China, She attempted to enter the U.S. illegally with someone else’s passport in 1998. They caught her and sent her to a foster home, from which she disappeared six weeks later. She told the authorities she was twelve, but her foster parents thought she was more like fourteen or fifteen. In any case, she’s been missing for thirteen and a half years.

They don’t seem to know much about Yuan, only what she told them: that she comes from the city of Fuzhou in China and all her immediate family lives there. (Assuming this is all truthful.) Her parents paid big bucks to a Thai man to take her to the U.S., where he was supposed to drop her off at a hotel. He served eight months for passport fraud; I couldn’t find anything else about him. Yuan didn’t speak a word of English, only Mandarin Chinese. Her foster family didn’t speak Mandarin. She was enrolled in junior high, where none of the students spoke Mandarin and only one teacher did. Her foster parents thought she seemed happy enough in their home, but she must have felt really lonely.

It’s up in the air what happened to Yuan, whether she ran away to avoid deportation, or if the smugglers’ network rescued/kidnapped her, or if something else entirely caused her disappearance. The police said it didn’t seem to be like an ordinary human trafficking situation, where the people arrive in the U.S. owing money to the smugglers for their passage and have to work as virtual slaves at sweatshops and brothels: Yuan’s parents had paid for her trip in full ahead of time. In 2008 there were leads placing her in the Kansas City area, but I don’t believe they were ever able to prove she was there. I suppose she could have returned to China.

If she is alive today, Yuan Xia Wang would be somewhere between 25 and 28 years old. Maybe someone out there will recognize a tall Chinese girl with a very round face.