LINCOLN -- University of Nebraska-Lincoln officials announced Wednesday that a faculty member missing in China since early June has contacted his family and will return to the U.S. as soon as flight arrangements can be made.
No further details are yet available about faculty member Weixing Li's whereabouts, said David Wilson, senior international officer for academic affairs.
UNL spokeswoman Kelly Bartling said officials hoped to speak with Li Wednesday to learn what had transpired in China.
UNL officials learned of Li's disappearance when his family contacted them because they had not heard from him. UNL had not been able to verify the family's subsequent report that Li had been detained by Chinese authorities.
Because Li is a Chinese citizen, Chinese authorities would not be required to report his status to U.S. officials.
A nontenured faculty member who holds a Ph.D. in business administration and management, Li accompanied 18 graduate and upper-level undergraduate students to China in May. Seven of the students returned to the United States as planned in early June, after four weeks of classroom study and touring.
Ten of 11 students who had remained behind to particiate in work internships at Chinese businesses decided to cut short their trips because of the disappearance, Bartling said Wednesday.
UNL is assisting the students, who were originally scheduled to return to the U.S. July 2, with travel arrangements, including additional air fare for rescheduling flights. The 11th student lives in China.
Li taught his course, in English, at Zhejiang University City College in Hangzhou, China. The program included tours of Shanghai, Xi'an and Beijing, and visits to Walmart, Starbucks and McDonald's outlets in China.
The students who participated in internships were to live in dormitories at a local university in Beijing.
Students told UNL officials they had not seen Li since early June. Li has been on the UNL faculty since 2003. This year's trip marked at least the fourth time he had taken a group of UNL students to China for the program on international business and Chinese culture.
In recent years the University of Nebraska system has sought to strengthen its ties with Chinese universities and businesses. UNL has established degree exchange programs with Xi'an Jiaotong University and Zhejiang University City College.
In 2007 UNL opened a Confucius Institute, a joint effort with Xi'an Jiaotong University to promote and teach Chinese culture and language in Lincoln and Nebraska.
In April, NU officials helped open an American Exchange Center on the Xi'an Jiaotong University campus, to expose Chinese students to U.S. history and culture. And last week, the NU Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources opened a Beijing office.
“We have a really close and valued relationship with China and our Chinese students and this will not affect it,” Bartling said.
Stay with Omaha.com for updates to this developing story.