BEIJING - Frustration and anger have driven several relatives of passengers on board the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) plane to resort to a hunger strike.
It is thought to have been started by a young woman who told reporters on Tuesday that families are "at their limit" and are going on a hunger strike to "force the truth" out of the Malaysian government.
"Malaysia is counting in days but we are counting in seconds," she was quoted as saying in news reports. "Return us our loved ones!"
Both MAS and the Malaysian government have come under fire over their handling of the search for Flight MH370, which many in China say is confusing after several U-turns over the plane's possible location and last-known contact.
MAS chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya told a press conference in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday that he would look into the matter and was in regular contact with the MAS team in Beijing.
The hunger strike looks to be loosely organised among the more than 200 relatives gathered at five hotels here since the Beijing-bound plane disappeared in the early hours of March8 with 239 people, including 153 Chinese nationals. It was not immediately clear, however, how many people were taking part.
Only two of those interviewed said they were on a fast, though one stopped after a few hours.
A woman in her 40s, who gave her name only as Madam Nan, told The Straits Times she had been drinking only water. Asked what she hoped to achieve, Madam Nan, whose husband was on the plane, said: "It's a protest; we want an answer. I will stay on the hunger strike for as long as I can."
Mr Jiang Cuiyan, who looked to be in his 40s, ended his fast by dinner time as "he could not take it". "But if Malaysia Airlines and the government do not give us a satisfactory answer soon, I might start again," he said.
Mr Wang Meng, 25, said there was no pressure on family members to take part in the hunger strike. He declined to say if he had joined the other strikers.
"There are older people or others with health conditions who cannot do it, and no one will force others to do so," said Mr Wang, whose mother is among the missing passengers. "This was something some families wanted to do because we feel so desperate."
Others say they will join in if things do not improve. "We won't promise that we won't do it, because we are already at our wits' end," said Ms Chantel Qiu, whose friend was on the plane.
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