In China, family members ramp up pressure over missing plane

by Reuters
Thursday, 13 March 2014 10:13 GMT

By Natalie Thomas and Adam Rose

BEIJING, March 13 (Reuters) - Furious relatives of passengers on a missing Malaysia aircraft are ramping up pressure on the Malaysian and Chinese governments to give them answers about what has happened, threatening lawsuits and demanding to see Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Surrounded by reporters who have flocked to the nondescript Beijing hotel where they have been told by the airline to gather, relatives are lashing out at the media, the airline and their own government for ignoring their plight.

"I really want to see President Xi - I don't know right now what could possibly be more important than the lives of these 200 people," said a young woman who gave her family name as Wen, fighting back tears.

"I also want to ask Mrs Xi, if your husband, President Xi, was on the plane, just imagine, if it was you, how would your parents feel?

"My husband was on the plane, every day my children are asking me about their dad, what am I supposed to do? ... We're helpless, we need our government to support us."

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 took off from Kuala Lumpur early on Saturday and dropped off civilian radar screens less than an hour into its flight to Beijing, a mystery that has yet to be solved.

Another person, who declined to give his name, said a lawsuit was the only way forward.

"We are definitely going sue them. This is really bad. (We are not suing) Malaysia Airlines, but the Malaysian government," he told reporters.

One man from Beijing, speaking to reporters after a meeting between the families and Malaysian diplomats, said it was ridiculous the Malaysians seemed to have no information about even the most basic facts.

"The exact demands were the exact position the plane disappeared at, the time it disappeared, and what happened in the time between the time when the plane was first reported missing and 2.40," he said, recounting the meeting on Thursday with the diplomats, who left without speaking to reporters.

Malaysia Airlines, the Malaysian and Chinese governments say they are doing all they can for the relatives, though Beijing has demanded Kuala Lumpur drastically step up its efforts.

Hugh Dunleavy, Malaysia Airlines' commercial director, told Reuters on Wednesday they were having a problem with some people who were turning up at the hotel and claiming free meals and rooms when they had nothing to do with the flight.

"I'm trying to get that organised with the family members, to say, let's take a real look at this, because they're complaining that they don't want them in there," he said.

The loss of a relative threatens to cause real difficulty for some of the families left behind.

Feng Zhishan, 50, said his son Feng Dong, 22, was flying back to China via Kuala Lumpur from Singapore, where he had been working on building a new subway line.

"Our family has no money," Feng told Reuters. "They all said, you can make more money in Singapore."

Another man, who refused to give his name, said his cousin was on the flight, having transited in Kuala Lumpur on his way home from a business trip in Australia.

"He's a really outgoing guy, loves travelling and sports. He was just 27 this year, and with a six month old son," he said, visibly distressed.

"It's been more than 70 hours. By now their officials should have given us some kind of explanation."

Paul Yin, a U.S.-trained psychologist, said he was at the hotel to offer counselling services.

"They go through ups and downs every day. Some are even suicidal," he said.

"Chinese society is based on the family unit. Especially with the one-child policy, if your kids are gone... for many people their purpose in life is circled around the next generation, and if they're gone some people don't see a purpose in being around any more."

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