Relatives demonstrate outside the Malaysian Embassy in China. Photo: Zhang Han
Nearly 500 relatives of the Chinese passengers of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 demonstrated outside the Malaysian Embassy in Beijing on March 25, protesting against the delayed announcement made by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak without any direct evidence that the aircraft crashed into the southern Indian Ocean. They demanded that the Malaysian government disclose the truth.
Most of the relatives couldn’t fall asleep after the announcement, and spent the whole night crying and wailing in the conference room of the hotel they are staying. On the morning of March 25, about 500 relatives gathered at the Lido Hotel, waiting for an explanation from Malaysian officials about the information released the previous day.
However, no Malaysian official appeared, which made the relatives feel insulted. Some people even said all Malaysian officials had left China before the announcement was made. Therefore, the relatives decided to go to the Malaysian Embassy and protest. A relative told the reporter, “The Malaysian government’s hiding of the truth not only hurts us, but also wastes time for rescue. If the passengers die, Malaysia will be the killer.”
It is about 4.5 kilometers from the Lido Hotel to the Malaysian Embassy in Beijing. The relatives, wearing T-shirts printed with words “Pray for MH370”, marched to the embassy in a loose procession of hundreds of meters. In fact, the relatives attempted a demonstration on March 10 but it was discouraged by the police. On the contrary, the police provided some assistance in the demonstration this time, such as cutting off the traffic to ensure the safety of the demonstrators and deploying fire engines and ambulances along the roads.
The demonstration lasted about 1.5 hours but the Malaysian Embassy kept silent all along. The demonstrators arrived at the embassy at noon and demanded to see the ambassador without any intent of breaking into the embassy. At first, the embassy didn’t respond to the demand. Later, led by some relatives, a letter of protest was read out loud. In the letter, the relatives expressed their intention to use whatever methods possible to hold Malaysian Airlines and the Malaysian government accountable for the incident. The demonstrators didn’t break up until the second secretary of the embassy came out and accepted the letter of protest.
At around 3:30 pm, Malaysian Ambassador to China Datuk Iskandar Sarudin visited the Lido Hotel. To the disappointment of the relatives, he reiterated the announcement made by Prime Minister Najib Razak but said nothing more than that. He didn’t even make a direct reply to any single question posed by the relatives.
The relatives, outraged by the ambassador, shouted words like “liar” and “killer” in front of him. Finally he left the hotel with the protection of over 10 bodyguards.
The relatives began to be isolated from the media from the morning of March 25. They were upset by the isolation and kept sending messages to the public through micro-blogs and WeChat, hoping their requests could be heard.
Xiao Yaqing, deputy secretary of the State Council of China, arrived at Lido Hotel after the departure of the Malaysian ambassador. This was the second time he had visited the relatives at the hotel since the disappearance of the aircraft. He indicated that the State Council had requested the Malaysian government to find the truth and provide relevant evidence.
In fact, some relatives have been complaining that the Chinese government has not taken hard-line approach toward the Malaysian government. Some people are discussing what would the Malaysian government have done if most of the passengers had been US or Russian citizens. In addition, some relatives are starting to consult lawyers of international law and consider bringing the Malaysian government and Malaysian Airlines to the International Court of Justice.
(Edited by Billie Feng)