A woman waits for relatives of the Chinese passengers on board the missing Malaysia Airlines plane at a hotel in Beijing on Tuesday. Photo: AP
Relatives of Chinese passengers on board MH370 march toward the Malaysian Embassy in Beijing on Tuesday. Photo: Li Hao/GT
More than 100 protesters, mostly Chinese relatives of passengers on board the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) plane, on Tuesday marched to the Malaysian Embassy in Beijing to demand "truth" from the Malaysian authorities, following the announcement Monday that flight MH370 "ended" in the southern Indian Ocean.
Monday night's announcement caused uproar on the Internet, with some celebrities and opinion leaders calling for a boycott of the airline.
The latest development has prompted Chinese President Xi Jinping to send a special envoy to Kuala Lumpur.
Speaking from the Netherlands, Xi said he has sent vice foreign minister Zhang Yesui, to deal with the matter of the missing flight.
Analysts said the growing frustration and discontent toward Malaysia's handling of the issue also added pressure on the Chinese government when dealing with Malaysian authorities.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak's announcement of the sad news on Monday night caused dramatic scenes at the Beijing hotel where Chinese relatives of passengers have been staying. In emotional scenes, some passengers collapsed and were taken to hospital on stretchers.
Of the 239 passengers and crew aboard MH370, 154 were Chinese. The aircraft has been missing for 18 days.
On Tuesday morning, more than 100 distraught relatives, dressed in white T-shirts with "Pray for MH370," initially took three buses to the embassy, but later got off the buses and marched to the embassy, which was cordoned off by police.
The protesters held banners saying "Malaysia Airlines, you owe us an explanation," and "We want truth."
Some threw plastic bottles at the embassy door and broke through security lines.
"Information released in the past two weeks has been misleading and even gave us false hopes," one of the relatives surnamed Wang told the Global Times on Tuesday, adding they could not accept the sudden announcement without any visible evidence.
Relatives say that there are still many unanswered questions. "How can they just draw a conclusion while so much speculation has not been explained and cleared yet?" one relative, who refused to be named, told reporters.
Wang said the relatives planned to go to the embassy by bus but changed their minds because "walking" there could make a louder sound.
The relatives said they suspect Malaysia is still withholding information.
"Our major request is to ask the Malaysians to provide clearer factual evidence to prove what they said," Wang said.
The rally outside the embassy lasted nearly three hours. They delivered the letter of protest to a second secretary of the embassy.
Later in the afternoon, Malaysian Ambassador to China Iskandar Sarudin met relatives at a Beijing hotel, but he reportedly said he wasn't able to address questions raised by relatives.
Malaysia's acting transport minister Hishammuddin Hussein and MAS CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya told Tuesday's press conference that a high-level Malaysian delegation will head to Beijing to share more detailed information with relatives of Chinese passengers.
The relatives' outrage was echoed by many Chinese Net users. An online call with the topic "never travel to Malaysia for my whole life" was started on Sina Weibo on Monday and over 24,000 Net users showed support as of press time.
"The airline has lost credibility in most Chinese people's minds, partly because of its mishandling at the beginning," said Li Haidong, an associate professor with China Foreign Affairs University.
"The foreign ministry's statements are quite strong these days and it somehow reflected the will of people and it shows that the social sentiments have added pressure on Chinese government," Li Haidong added.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said Tuesday that immediately after hearing the news of the flight's end, China asked Malaysia for evidence to back up their claim. On Monday, the language used was stronger, with the foreign ministry saying it "demanded" information disclosure from Malaysia.
On Tuesday, Australian officials announced bad weather in the region far off Australia's western coast forced the suspension of the search for any wreckage, Reuters reported.
MAS said in a statement that it would make arrangements to fly relatives to Australia once it had approval from the investigating authorities.
Australia's Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said his department was working with the airline and Beijing to facilitate visas. Relatives would be given tourist visas with the usual fees waived, he said.