MH370: Chinese relatives cling to hope

March 21, 2014 - 12:34:34 am

Satellite images released yesterday by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority shows objects that may be possible debris of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in a revised area 185km to the south east of the original search area. RIGHT: Relatives of passengers gather at a television viewing room at a hotel in Beijing.

BEIJING: Despite the announcement that satellites had spotted possible aircraft debris in the southern Indian ocean, relatives of Chinese passengers on board Malaysia Airlines 370 clung to hope that their loved-ones were still alive.

Wen Wancheng refused to accept the announcement meant he had lost his son, one of 153 Chinese passengers on the flight, which disappeared on March 8 during a flight to Beijing. “My son is still alive. My son is still alive,” said the 63-year-old from Shandong province. “I don’t believe the news.”

“Do you think I would believe my son is gone?” he added. “Can I believe he is in the sea?”

Chinese citizens make up two-thirds of those on the MH370 manifest, and their anguished relatives have been waiting for news at the Lido Hotel in Beijing.

While some said there was “no new information”, despite the Australian images, many appeared in more sombre mood than in previous days.

“I am sick of hearing there is new information only for it to be dismissed later,” one man said angrily. Another man, Zhao Chunzeng said families were seeking a confirmed discovery. “We are waiting, just waiting, and we can’t respond to news until it is definitely confirmed,” Zhao said.

Asked if he felt that the Australian announcement had greater significance as it came from the prime minister, Tony Abbott, he said: “Maybe, but we will still have to wait and see.”

Inside the briefing room, relatives earlier had angrily confronted a Malaysia Airlines official over the lack of information on the flight’s whereabouts.

“You are cheating us,” one man said. “You are cheating us relatives. You have been torturing us.”

Another relative mentioned the possibility of a hunger strike, which some family members have suggested in recent days as the anxious wait for news continues.

“We are here to learn the truth,” the man said. “We can choose not to eat, we can choose not to sleep. We can choose to not receive your care. We want our relatives back. We don’t want our relatives to be sacrificed to a political fight.”

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, said the government was paying “great attention” to the news from Australia. “The Chinese side is ready to make relevant arrangements based on the latest updates,” he said.

The state broadcaster CCTV said in a posting on its verified account on Sina Weibo, a Chinese equivalent of Twitter, that the China maritime rescue centre would maintain its existing search plan, given the uncertainty over whether the debris was connected to the missing jet. The nearest Chinese search vessel was two days away from the location of the sighting, it added.

An online chat group organised by some of the passengers’ relatives through China’s popular WeChat mobile app was a flurry of nervous activity as news of the Australian disclosure spread. Some posted panicked reactions, while others urged calm and noted wearily that most of the “discoveries” announced over the past 13 days had turned out to be false leads.

At the Lido hotel, some relatives have posted messages on a large white board near the room where airline officials have been holding daily briefings. “Mum and Dad, please come home safe,” read one message shown on the Hong Kong-based Phoenix television. “Your son is waiting for you.”

The Guardian

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