Chinese MH370 relatives protest at Malaysian embassy

BEIJING - Angry relatives of Chinese passengers aboard Flight MH370 scuffled with security personnel Tuesday as they descended on Malaysia's embassy in a rare protest, weeping as they demanded answers on the crashed plane.

"Return our relatives," around 200 family members cried at the gates of the Beijing mission, which was protected by a row of uniformed police and plain clothes security.

One of the most vocal campaigners against the Malaysian government, Wen Wancheng, burst out crying, his face contorted with emotion.

"My son, my son, return my son!" screamed the 63-year-old, as relatives behind him chanted slogans, raising their right fists. Behind him others bowed their heads and sobbed.

Scuffles broke out when uniformed security personnel attempted to block some of the relatives from reaching reporters, who were being kept in a designated area. One woman was taken away on a stretcher.

Paramilitary police with riot shields assembled nearby, out of view of the protesters.

The relatives, some in tears, had linked arms as they marched from the Lido Hotel, where they have gathered throughout the 17-day drama, about four kilometres (2.5 miles) to the mission.

They erupted in grief, fury and disbelief late Monday when Malaysia announced that although no wreckage has been found, satellite data showed the plane had crashed in the Indian Ocean.

At a press conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Airlines' chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya defended the carrier against criticism that relatives were told in a text message that the plane was lost with no survivors.

"Our sole motivation last night... was that the families heard the tragic news before the world did," he said at a press conference. "There are no words which can ease that pain."

'We want our families'

Chinese authorities normally keep a very tight rein on any protests in Beijing.

But at intersections along the way police blocked traffic to allow the marchers through, while at the embassy scores of black-clad uniformed police officers kept the roads clear, their walkie-talkies abuzz.

The demonstrators shouted slogans including "The Malaysian government are murderers" and "We want our relatives back".

Many held pre-prepared printed placards and wore "Pray for MH370" T-shirts. "We want our families," read one sign. Others read "Son: mother and father's heart is broken, hurry home" and "Husband, hurry home. What am I and our son going to do?"

One relative who refused to give his name, but who has been one of the unofficial leaders of the Flight MH370 family members' group, told AFP that the police "would have known" about the demonstration.

At the embassy the officers were standing in a row behind a sign reading: "Traffic restrictions, vehicles take a circular route." A policeman refused to say why the traffic restrictions had been imposed when asked by an AFP reporter.

Earlier, the relatives had boarded shuttle buses bringing them from various hotels to the Lido, intending to take them to the diplomatic mission, but dozens of police surrounded the vehicles and prevented them from driving off, leading them to march instead.

There were dramatic scenes at the Lido Hotel after Monday's announcement, with stretcher-bearing paramedics drafted in to tend to devastated family members, some of whom collapsed.

China has demanded that Kuala Lumpur hand over the satellite data which led it to conclude that the Beijing-bound Malaysia Airlines flight crashed at sea and that none of the 239 people aboard survived. Two-thirds of the passengers were Chinese.