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Malaysia Airlines’ response to the missing airliner will likely become the cautionary tale of what not to do for the industry.
Family members and friends of passengers on the missing Malaysian jet protested in front of the country’s embassy in Beijing as anguish gave way to anger upon learning there’s no hope their loved ones are alive.
About 200 people marched to the Malaysian embassy, which was protected by guards and paramilitary police. Many protesters wore white T-shirts with characters that said: “Pray for MH370.”
“Give us our families back,” they chanted in unison. Some held up placards addressed to the missing plane’s passengers such as: “Mom, you cook the best food in the world.” One man’s sign read: “The wedding ring is purchased. I want to put it on your finger.”
They earlier today accused Malaysian Airline System Bhd. and the southeast Asian nation’s leaders of a cover-up. Confusing information about Flight 370, which disappeared March 8, “misled and delayed the rescue, wasting tremendous manpower and resources as well as the most precious rescuing time,” one man read in a statement earlier, surrounded by about 30 family members at 2 a.m. in Beijing’s Metropark Lido Hotel.
The relatives were last night brought to the hotel ballroom to watch on television as Malaysian officials concluded the Boeing 777-200ER disappeared into the southern Indian Ocean, leaving no hope of survivors. Wails and screams punctuated that meeting, and at least two relatives were carried away on stretchers while police guarded the entrance.
“If the 154 passengers lost their precious lives, then Malaysia Airline, Malaysian government and Malaysian military are the executioner of our families,” the relatives said in the early-morning statement.
Xie Hangsheng, a vice Chinese foreign minister, summoned the Malaysian ambassador late yesterday to demand that Malaysia provide the data on which it based its conclusion, the state-run Xinhua News Agency said.
Frustration has mounted for passengers’ family members over the slow pace with which officials have released information on Malaysian Air’s plane, now missing for 18 days. Analysis of satellite data rules out the possibility the plane may have flown north over land and that “its last position was in the middle of the Indian Ocean” west of Australia, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak said yesterday.
Najib’s pronouncement may have been intended to counter criticism that Malaysian officials have been too reticent to share details of the search, said Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst with Teal Group, a consultant based in Fairfax, Virginia.
“It’s not much closure, but it’s better than none at this point,” Aboulafia said in a telephone interview.
That’s proven illusive for Li Bo, 40, a Heilongjiang native whose cousin — an only child — was on the missing plane. He lashed out at photographers who clamored to take his picture outside the ballroom, cutting his arm in the melee.
“There is no evidence,” Li said after watching Najib’s televised statement in the Lido ballroom. “If you have evidence of something floating on the sea we can accept it. But now there is nothing.”
The conclusion that the plane was lost at sea, drawn from a new analysis by satellite operator Inmarsat Plc and British air safety regulators, isn’t credible, Li said in an interview. “You can’t make a judgment based on Malaysia’s data.”
Malaysian Air said it revealed its conclusion to the families first before making a statement to the media. The carrier is providing support to more than 900 relatives, it said.
Family members have turned to Weibo, a Chinese-language social media site similar to Twitter, to express their anguish and response to events that have mystified the world.
Chanting in unison at the Beijing hotel, the relatives said they “protest and condemn” the inaction by Malaysian officials. “We will take all possible means to prosecute Malaysian Airlines, Malaysian government and Malaysian military unforgivable guilt and responsibility,” they said.
The passengers’ relatives and friends had boarded three buses, then got out and walked as they approached the embassy.
An old man wept as they prepared to leave the hotel. “Where is my family? Where are they?”
To contact Bloomberg News Staff for this story: Henry Sanderson in Beijing at +86-10-6649-7548 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Julie Johnsson in Chicago at +1-312-443-5932 or email@example.com, with assistance from Xin Zhou in Beijing.
To contact the reporters on this story: Julie Johnsson in Chicago at firstname.lastname@example.org; Henry Sanderson in Beijing at email@example.com. To contact the editors responsible for this story: Ed Dufner at firstname.lastname@example.org Frank Longid.