BEIJING - No evidence has been found linking the 153 Chinese passengers aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight to terror or hijacking, state media said Tuesday, citing Beijing's envoy in Kuala Lumpur.
Meanwhile, with a huge international search covering vast areas north and south of the plane's last known position, China has begun searching for the aircraft on its own territory, said foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei.
"In accordance with the request of the Malaysian side, we have mobilised satellites and radar for search in the northern corridor inside the territory of China," he told a regular press briefing.
The northern route stretches in an arc over south and central Asia, passing across far-western China including Xinjiang and Tibet, but Hong declined to give details of the search area.
China's ambassador to Malaysia Huang Huikang said background checks on all passengers from the Chinese mainland on board Flight MH370 found no evidence they were linked to a hijacking or terrorist attack on the jet.
A criminal investigation had been launched, Huang said, according to Xinhua news agency, adding that "the probe into the incident's cause is not suitable to be conducted in a high-profile way".
The jet disappeared on March 8 with 239 people on board after taking off from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing. Investigators say it was deliberately diverted off course.
Twenty-six countries are now helping to hunt for the plane after satellite and military radar data projected two huge corridors through which it might have flown.
The southern corridor swoops deep into the southern Indian Ocean west of Australia.
Hong said that as well as deploying more than 10 ships in "relevant waters", China had also mobilised several aircraft and 21 satellites for the search.
The investigation has zeroed in on the plane's captain, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, and his co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid. A key question is who was in control of the aircraft when it veered off course about an hour into its flight.
"The Malaysian government has been doing its best in search and investigation, but it lacks experience and capability to handle this kind of incident," Huang said, according to Xinhua.