On Monday, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak told the press that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared shortly after take-off on March 8, was assumed “beyond reasonable doubt” to have crashed into the Indian Ocean. Investigators still face a long road to determine exactly what happened to Flight 370, and to date no debris from the plane has actually been discovered. Ships from several nations (including Australia, China, and the U.S.) hoped to continue searching an area southwest of Australia where debris was spotted via satellite, but bad weather grounded search efforts on Tuesday.
The families of Chinese passengers aboard the flight reacted angrily to the news. Family members had already accused the Malaysian government of being too slow in releasing information, and even of deliberately withholding or falsifying information about the missing plane. After the announcement that the plane was presumed destroyed, a group of over 100 family members marched to the Malaysian Embassy in Beijing to protest Kuala Lumpur’s handling of the crisis. The family members accused Malaysia of “cheating” them and demanded the government “return our relatives.” The protestors began throwing water bottles and even attempted to storm the compounds before being pushed back by police.
Prior to the protest, an unidentified family member read out a statement accusing the Malaysian government of “an attempt to deceive the families of the passengers and an attempt to deceive the people of the world.” “If our 154 loved ones on board have lost their precious lives on the plane because of this, then Malaysia Airlines, the Malaysia government and the Malaysia military are the real executioners who have killed our loved ones,” the statement continued, promising to seek justice for the “unforgivable guilt” of the airline and Malaysia’s government.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
Later, the Malaysian Ambassador came to the hotel where many relatives were staying to speak with them, but according to Chinese media he was unwilling to answer most of their questions. People’s Daily tweeted, “Relatives raged as Malaysian Amb. to China failed to answer their questions at hotel in Beijing.”
Reflecting the public anger, China’s Foreign Ministry was also less than satisfied with the announcement from Najib Razak. According to the Financial Times, the government even assisted the family members in organizing their protest march at the Malaysian Embassy. In a special statement, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei said that China “called on the Malaysian side to provide further evidence and all the information that leads up to this conclusion.” Hong also called for Malaysia to continue its search efforts, as China plans to do.
In Tuesday’s press conference, Hong mentioned that China’s government has sent representatives to the hotels where passengers’ family members were staying to provide support “including legal assistance.” “The Chinese government will without any doubt fulfill its responsibility in this regard,” Hong added. With the Chinese government promising to back its citizens as they seek reparations from Malaysia, China-Malaysia relations could easily take a turn for the worse.