Chinese demand more information on missing plane
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia—Several dozen Chinese relatives of passengers on Flight 370 arrived in Malaysia on Sunday to demand to meet top officials for more information about what happened to the airliner that has been missing for more than three weeks.
Two-thirds of the 227 passengers aboard the Malaysia Airlines plane that disappeared March 8 en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur were Chinese, and Beijing has urged Malaysia to be more open about the investigation.
Twenty-nine Chinese family members arrived in Kuala Lumpur after an overnight flight from Beijing, said Malaysia Airlines commercial director Hugh Dunleavy. They were ushered through a Very Important Persons area at the airport onto two large buses that drove them to a hotel about half an hour away.
About 30 Malaysian volunteers in pale blue polo-shirts led the relatives from the buses to the hotel. Some of the volunteers linked arms to prevent reporters from getting near and nudged cameramen aside.
The Chinese were mostly reticent. Some wore white T-shirts with light blue Chinese characters that said “Praying that MH370 returns home safely.”
A man named Jiang Hui said the relatives would speak at greater length later. “Now that we’ve come here, we will disseminate comments in a unified way. We don’t reject the media, but please give us a bit of time.”
Another man who gave only his surname, Xu, said in brief comments that the relatives want to meet officials “at the very highest levels.”
In Beijing before they boarded the flight, one relative said they would demand to meet the prime minister and the defense minister, who is the chief spokesman for the government.
“We have questions that we would like to ask them in person,” said Wang Chunjiang, whose younger brother, lawyer Wang Chunyong, was on Flight 370.
“We know what we can do is insignificant, but we will do whatever we can do for our beloved ones,” said Wang, who was unable to make the trip because of a family issue. “We want to know what could have happened to them in the six hours the plane kept flying, and if they had to endure any mental and physical pains.”
He said some relatives were hoping for a miracle. “It cannot be completely ruled out before we see the wreckage of the plane or the bodies of our loved ones.”
When Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak confirmed on March 24 that based on radar and satellite analysis the plane had crashed somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean, there were lingering questions because there was no physical evidence.
That wariness on the part of the relatives has been fueled by the missteps at the beginning of the search, which started in waters off Vietnam, then swung to areas west of Malaysia and Indonesia, and then as radar and satellite information was further analyzed, to southwest of Australia and now to a second zone farther northeast.
Later Sunday, Ong Ka Ting, the Malaysian prime minister’s special envoy to China, went to the hotel to greet the relatives.
“I’m sure in Beijing they’ve already had a lot of discussions and we understand their feelings, and we know that definitely by coming over here there will be a lot more discussions and meetings,” Ong said. “So we try our best to assist them.”
In Perth, Australia, where the search is based, Australia set up a coordination center for the multinational operation. Possibly in anticipation that wreckage of the plane will be found, officials said the center will also be a contact point for the families, including interpreter services and counseling.