MH370: Families' meeting with airline turns hostile

A man stands in front of a billboard as a meeting for Chinese relatives of those lost on MH370 are updated on the search. Photo / AFP
A man stands in front of a billboard as a meeting for Chinese relatives of those lost on MH370 are updated on the search. Photo / AFP

A meeting between relatives of Chinese passengers aboard missing flight MH370 and Malaysia Airlines staff descended into chaos last night, with police stepping in to separate both sides amid angry scenes in a Beijing hotel.

Up until three weeks ago, Malaysian government and military officials held regular briefings with the relatives to update them on the search for the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 that went missing on March 8.

Anger mounted this week as relatives demanded the resumption of meetings with high-level government staff.

Tensions boiled over at yesterday's briefing, with some relatives saying they were on a "hunger strike" in protest after airline officials told them they were unable to get the Malaysian embassy to send a representative to answer their questions.

Malaysia Airlines senior vice president Jaffar Derus Ahmad repeatedly called on the relatives to eat dinner at a lobby restaurant, but angry scenes erupted when a man appeared to faint.

"This is what you have caused," one man shouted as more than two dozen relatives sought to angrily confront the airline staff, hitting on a table and shouting "Protest! Protest!"

About a dozen police and security staff stepped in to rescue the besieged airline staff.

"I have been asking, indeed begging Malaysia and Malaysian Airlines to bring my son back. I miss my son," relative Wen Wancheng told the airline staff, his face contorted with anguish.

"I am not trying to create trouble or difficulty for your staff. We haven't been trying to vent anger or hate on your staff," added the 63-year-old tearfully, as he was comforted by other relatives.

The relatives last month staged an angry protest at the Malaysian embassy in Beijing.

Nothing has been seen of the plane or its 239 passengers and crew since it vanished off radar screens during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8.

The plane is believed to have crashed in the southern Indian Ocean after veering dramatically off course.

- AFP

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