MH370: Why Chinese relatives lashed out

MH370: Why Chinese relatives lashed out

Different people grieve in different ways.

For about 400 grief-stricken relatives of the 153 Chinese passengers on board missing Flight MH370, their behaviour has run the gamut from going on a hunger strike, and gatecrashing an official press briefing in Kuala Lumpur, to protesting in front of the Malaysian Embassy in Beijing and hurling insults at Malaysian government and airline officials at meetings.

They were protesting against the pace and course of investigations and demanding to know why the Malaysia Airlines (MAS) plane never made it to its intended destination, Beijing, and how it could have remained missing since March 8.

Media reports of their behaviour contrasted sharply with that of other families - of 13 nationalities - who also have relatives on the plane.

At a news briefing in Kuala Lumpur last Wednesday, one day after about 200 Chinese demanding answers marched to the Malaysian Embassy in Beijing, Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said: "But the Chinese families must also understand that Malaysia also lost loved ones and many other nations also lost loved ones.

"I have seen images (of relatives) from Australia: very rational, understanding this is a global effort, not blaming Malaysia, because it is coordinating something unprecedented."

Given the negative light that may have been cast on the Chinese family members' actions, it is not just fair but also necessary to examine the factors behind their behaviour and whether most people, if in the same plight and living in the Chinese society, would have responded the same way.

A key reason has to do with the unique psyche of the Chinese people.

After living here for two years, I have come to realise just how much the Chinese people suspect their government and officials of covering up scandals or hiding the truth.

Just take a look at the Chinese cyberspace, where netizens often poke holes at official pronouncements and slam government policies.

This helps explain why many relatives, until now, still believe that the Malaysian government is not coming clean on the missing plane.

Second, many Chinese here believe in taking things into their own hands and also in the law of the jungle - only the fittest, as well as the loudest, wins.

I was once standing in line at an airport check-in counter when a group of men rudely cut in. When I told them off, they started heckling me and calling me blind.

Perhaps this is why the relatives who are in Beijing have been extremely vocal in their anger and demands, as shown during meetings with Malaysian officials and the embassy protest last Tuesday.

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