MH370: Families of Chinese passengers demand 'the truth'

MH370: Families of Chinese passengers demand 'the truth'

Almost 30 relatives of Chinese passengers on a missing Malaysia Airlines flight arrived Sunday in Kuala Lumpur to demand answers about the plane's fate, with some calling for an apology from Malaysia's government.

Twenty-nine family members arrived, according to an official of the Malaysian Chinese Association, a party in the ruling coalition which is providing support for them.

An airline official had earlier put the figure at 39.

At a hotel on the outskirts of the capital, the relatives wore white T-shirts reading "Pray for MH370" and displayed banners stating: "Tell us the truth. Give us our relatives back." But not all were in a militant mood.

At a regular briefing by Malaysian officials for family members in Beijing, a female relative said the group did not all go to put pressure on the Malaysian government.

"Some of the next of kin want to see for themselves the last place where their loved ones ever set foot," she added, as she broke down in tears.

Flight MH370 inexplicably vanished on March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board in one of the greatest mysteries in aviation history.

Among the passengers were 153 Chinese and their grieving families have accused Malaysia of incompetence over the search and of hiding information about the fate of the Boeing 777.

Some are particularly angry at a March 24 announcement by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak that, based on satellite data and other calculations, the plane was lost in the southern Indian Ocean after being diverted thousands of miles off course.

Relatives told reporters on Sunday that they wanted Malaysia to retract and apologise for the announcement.

They said they also wanted more information and meetings with top Malaysian officials.

Najib's aide and a transport ministry official said no meeting had been scheduled for Sunday.

Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein is supervising the search efforts for MH370.

Several other Chinese family members have been in Malaysia since shortly after the plane lost contact with air traffic controllers.

Many relatives, both in China and Malaysia, refuse to accept that the plane crashed into the ocean until a multinational air and sea search off Australia finds some wreckage.

The regular Malaysian briefings for the families in a Beijing hotel have been acrimonious affairs.

Family members have stormed out of them and shouted abuse at officials, claiming Malaysia is concealing the truth.

Irate relatives scuffled with security personnel outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing last Tuesday, after authorities allowed a rare protest march in the capital.

Malaysia is showing signs of impatience at the Chinese accusations, saying it has been as forthcoming with information as it can be.

The airline says it has provided counsellors and interim cash support for the relatives.

Plane search intensifies

The search for a Malaysian airliner intensified Sunday, 22 days after it vanished with 239 people on board, as relatives of Chinese passengers arrived in Malaysia to demand answers about their fate.

Eight ships - the largest number so far - and 10 planes from six countries were sweeping a vast expanse of the Indian Ocean off Australia for wreckage from the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777.

Hopes of finding physical evidence of a crash have been repeatedly raised by debris sightings, then crushed as the items turned out to be random sea junk such as fishing gear.

As the hunt resumed 1,850 kilometres (1,150 miles) west of Perth, Australia said its former military chief Angus Houston would head a new unit to help in the search, which involves the militaries of seven nations - Australia, China, Malaysia, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and the United States.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Houston would lead the new Joint Agency Coordination Centre based in Perth.

Houston will coordinate the often delicate diplomatic contacts between search participants, and ensure families get all the information and help they need.

About two-thirds of those on board were Chinese and their loved ones have complained bitterly about what they see as Malaysia's secretive and incompetent handling of the search.

Abbott said the Australian government "won't rest until we've done everything we reasonably can to get those families and to get the wider community of the world a little more peace and a little more insight into exactly what happened".

International protocols mean Malaysia is officially in charge of the search, but Abbott made clear that Houston was available "to oversee the overall search and investigation effort" if asked.

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