Relatives of Chinese passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane are accusing the Malaysian government of “talking nonsense” and launching a cover-up while a rescue could have been carried out.
“Only the Malaysia government knows the truth. They’ve been talking nonsense since the beginning,” said Wen Wancheng, following a meeting with airline officials in Beijing as the search entered its 10th day.
“You hid the whereabouts from the beginning and after seven to eight days you discovered it? That was the best time to launch a rescue,” added the 63-year-old from the eastern province of Shandong, whose son was aboard the missing jet.
Another relative who left Monday’s meeting said: “Of course there is no useful information for us, there never is.”
The relatives’ anger came as Malaysia drew more scathing criticism from Chinese state media and social media users.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on Saturday disclosed that the flight had been deliberately diverted, and that the plane flew for several hours after leaving its intended flight path.
In an editorial, the China Daily newspaper questioned why the announcement came more than a week after the flight vanished and wondered whether Malaysia was sharing all of the information it had gathered.
“The contradictory and piecemeal information Malaysia Airlines and its government have provided has made search efforts difficult and the entire incident even more mysterious,” the newspaper wrote.
“What else is known that has not been shared with the world?”
Two-thirds of the passengers on board the flight were Chinese, and Beijing has been critical of Malaysia’s sharing of information – a concern reiterated on Monday as fears mounted that the plane might have been hijacked.
“It is of the utmost importance that any loopholes that might have been exploited by hijackers or terrorists be identified as soon as possible because we need counter-measures to plug them,” the China Daily wrote.
Yao Shujie, the head of the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies at the University of Nottingham, wrote in an op-ed in China’s state-run Global Times newspaper that Malaysia “has lost authority and credibility” due to its chaotic response.
“The lack of national strength and experience in dealing with incidents has left the Malaysian government helpless and exhausted by denying all kinds of rumours,” Yao wrote.
He added: “If the search continues to be fruitless even following the new information, Malaysia would be better off handing over its command in the international rescue operation.”
China’s foreign ministry took a more measured tone, with spokesman Hong Lei telling Monday’s regular briefing that the search “is faced with even more difficulties” in light of the new information.
“We hope the Malaysian side will better co-ordinate all the search efforts and provide comprehensive and accurate information to all sides, expand the search and step up search efforts,” Hong said.
He added that Beijing “will not reduce our search forces, but we will redirect the forces” as the situation changes.
The plane’s disappearance remained the most hotly debated topic on China’s popular social networks. Many users of Sina Weibo, a Chinese equivalent of Twitter, echoed concerns over the Malaysian government’s release of information.
“Why is it only now that they’ve confirmed it may have been hijacked?” one Sina Weibo user wrote in response to the latest revelations by Kuala Lumpur.
“Malaysia, what else are you hiding?”