BEIJING, March 21 — Relatives of Chinese passengers on board MH370 vented their fury on Malaysian government officials today in their first meeting in Beijing, denouncing them for time-wasting almost two weeks after the aircraft vanished.
The event began in an angry fashion, with family members yelling at the group of political representatives and senior military officials to stand up when they were being introduced, rather than nodding while sitting down.
“We wanted to see you in the first 24 and 48 hours, so that we wouldn’t have had to bear the suffering of the last 13 days,” shouted one anguished relative, his voice quivering.
“The plane turned around, but you denied this, and because of this you have wasted so much time,” he added, questioning why the military originally dismissed reports the plane had deviated from its original flight path before Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak confirmed it last weekend.
Chinese citizens make up 153 of those on board Malaysia Airlines flight 370 — two-thirds of the total — and the meeting took place at a hotel where their loved ones have been waiting for news.
Australia released satellite photos of possible debris in the southern Indian Ocean yesterday, but officials stressed that the sighting was unconfirmed.
Many of the Chinese relatives continue to believe that the plane is intact and their loved ones still alive, with some clinging to conspiracy theories that Kuala Lumpur has carried out a huge cover up.
“No matter what the reasons (for the plane going missing), can the Malaysian government leave behind the hatred and their own interests in this, and let our loved ones return home?” one mother asked tearfully, as other relatives applauded.
She accused airline officials of not responding when she told them her son had tried to call his uncle three times from an overseas number two days after it went missing.
“This was obviously a call for help,” the highly-emotional woman said.
Some raised with the Malaysian delegation media reports that flight captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah is distantly related to the daughter-in-law of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, as well as being a member of his political party.
“If the pilot did this to support this party, can Malaysia guarantee that they will put the lives of the passengers over any political interests?” the mother asked.
One man bellowed: “We demand our relatives won’t become victims of Malaysian politics.”
The meeting began with a lengthy review of the search and rescue operation from the delegation — made up of ambassador to China Iskandar Sarudin, a Malaysian Air Force commander, two Malaysian civil aviation officials, a Boeing 777 pilot and a government aviation official — before they invited questions, sparking the angry scenes.
Some relatives interrupted each other as they shouted questions, while others cried as they attempted to get their point across to the officials.
The answers were also regularly interrupted as relatives shouted at the delegation.
The Malaysia-based officials arrived in Beijing late yesterday after repeated, angry demands by relatives for an opportunity to question Kuala Lumpur about the search and rescue operation.
Previous daily meetings at the hotel have been with representatives of Malaysia Airlines, and the family members have been growing increasingly frustrated at the lack of answers.
Relatives have spoken of hunger strikes and demonstrations in recent days.
AFP understands they have also been attempting to organise themselves into groups aimed at putting added pressure on the Malaysian government.
Uniformed police officers ushered foreign reporters out of the room before the more than three hour long meeting began, while a handful of selected Chinese state media organisations remained inside.
Domestic media are tightly controlled in China. — AFP