Kidnapped 5-year-old Xin Xin Ma and her family have fled the country in fear of their lives after concerns of possible retaliatory action by triad gang members.
The potential threat to the family's safety was raised yesterday by Xin Xin's aunt Hong Zhou, who confirmed the little girl, her mother and other family members had returned to China after allegations members of the 14K Triad gang had also been involved in the abduction.
The man accused of Xin Xin's kidnapping, Dequiong Deng (who also goes under the name Aaron Deng), has told police that he was not the masked man who bundled Xin Xin into the back of a station wagon outside her North Shore home last month.
Deng claims triad members initially kidnapped the girl before she was later gagged, bound and locked in a wardrobe in a house only metres from the family's Albany home.
Police won't confirm whether there is any substance to this allegation.
Zhou told the Herald on Sunday the family felt they had no choice but to return to China.
They were in genuine fear for their lives and thought it best to go back to their homeland.
"They just don't feel safe any more," she said.
She declined to comment further.
Last night police said they were unaware Xin Xin and her family had left New Zealand, but added that given what had occurred, they were not surprised.
Xin Xin's father Mark Jin Ma is still residing in New Zealand as he awaits a hearing on charges relating to building consent breaches for a West Auckland subdivision.
Deng remains in custody awaiting trial on the kidnapping charge.
It emerged last week that he made his first demand via text message for $500,000 to Xin Xin's family on July 14, the day she was snatched.
Deng allegedly continued to text the family over the next few days in the hope of exchanging the girl for ransom. According to police, he spraypainted markings on the side of the motorway, indicating directions to a drop-off point for the money.
However, the ransom was never paid, and Deng was later arrested at his Rothesay Bay home and charged with kidnapping Xin Xin, who was found at a property owned by Deng and his girlfriend.
A real estate agent for Ray White on the North Shore, Deng is understood to have past dealings with Xin Xin's father and had a close relationship with Xin Xin's mother, Jin Zhou, whom he referred to as his "elder-sister".
A police source said Deng was involved in selling property for Xin Xin's parents.