KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysians are chafing at scathing Chinese criticism over the lost MH370 passenger jet, with fed-up officials, media and citizens now hitting back after being assailed as incompetent liars and murderers.
Authorities in Kuala Lumpur have been on the defensive since the Beijing-bound Malaysia Airlines flight went missing on March 8 with 239 people aboard, most of them Chinese citizens.
In addition to near-daily displays of fury from Chinese relatives, China's tightly controlled state media have heaped opprobrium on the Malaysian government and airline, while its secretive Communist government has urged more transparency in the investigation.
A letter from the relatives, blasting Malaysia's behaviour as "irresponsible" and "inhumane", demanded China now mount its own investigation. And a US law firm says it is consulting with Chinese families on possible legal action against Malaysia Airlines and aircraft maker Boeing.
Malaysia has largely held fire - China, the world's second-largest economy, is its primary trading partner. But the strain is starting to show.
Defence and Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, who had trodden lightly on China in often-testy press briefings on the crisis, was asked by a Chinese reporter Tuesday about delays and misdirections in Malaysia's initial response.
Hishammuddin shot back that time was wasted early in the search by Chinese satellite images showing purported plane debris in the South China Sea. Beijing later acknowledged the images were false, and the search for wreckage is now focussed far away in the Indian Ocean.
'We also lost loved ones'
A day later, the minister insisted that "history will judge us well". "Anybody who has gone through this, what we have gone through... has indicated to me that we have done quite an admirable job," he said, adding that no country has a monopoly on grief - the plane carried 50 Malaysian citizens.
"For the Chinese families there, they must also understand that we in Malaysia have also lost loved ones."
State-controlled press have joined in, with the Malay Mail newspaper running a front-page editorial Friday headlined "MH370 - Malaysia under siege".