Missing student and wife appear at detention hearing

U.S. federal authorities have appointed a detention hearing Monday for an American university student and his Chinese wife who disappeared last month on a sightseeing trip to Spain, according to the North Carolina attorney for the American.

Xiaolu Guo, a 20-year-old second-year student at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and Beiying Wang, his wife, had been expected back at the school’s campus after a week-long trip to Spain. Wang was traveling as his interpreter, attorney Chip Lavien said Friday. But when they didn’t return by Thursday, the university said that’s when it contacted the FBI.

State agencies that helped organize the trip have provided information on the couple’s whereabouts to federal authorities and the school’s police department, Lavien said.

His clients have been cooperating with authorities and “look forward to a court hearing to return to the United States,” Lavien said in a text message. He declined to comment further.

After leaving the US campus, the couple went to a neighborhood north of Barcelona, where they attended classes and eventually met an older couple, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting’s ProPublica investigative journalism project. The couple, unable to go back to Spain, moved in with that couple’s daughter, Cai Hongzhi, and her husband and son. But the arrangement didn’t last long. By November, Cai Hongzhi and her husband and son had grown tired of the couple and Wang’s company and decided to leave the house.

Then, in early November, on what was meant to be a weekend trip, the couple went missing, Cai Hongzhi’s lawyer told ProPublica. Cai Hongzhi and her family remain unsure about what happened to the couple and what led to their disappearance.

They contacted the German embassy in Spain to seek help in locating the couple, and they also contacted the US Embassy and Greensboro Police Department, said an official with the German consulate in Madrid. They received a response that Cai Hongzhi’s parents had been unable to contact the couple, and had made contact with a local police station. Both the German and Chinese missions declined to comment further on the status of the case.

Eventually, a Virginia-based paper company that Xiaolu Guo works for in Germany called Pro-Helix emailed the school and university officials asking for updates. Hua Jian, the city manager of Nanjing where Guo is listed as a sales manager for the company, told ProPublica he didn’t know where he was or his whereabouts. “I am contacting a detective in the U.S. and in China to get a confirmation on his whereabouts,” he said.

Peter Ginsberg, an attorney with the Asian Law Caucus, said he has spoken to Xiaolu Guo’s parents and that they spoke to US embassy officials in China in the “early days of this case.” They were hopeful he’d be back to the US within a couple of weeks, he said. Since then, the Guo parents have met with FBI officials to request help in locating their son.

The Guo family is willing to meet with FBI agents and show them what he was doing in the weeks leading up to his disappearance, Ginsberg said. The FBI declined to comment.

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