The families of passengers of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 stormed the Malaysian embassy in Beijing Friday, objecting to being left out of meetings with Malaysian government officials and demanding Malaysia pay for their flight to Reunion, a remote island in the Indian Ocean where the flaperon part of a Boeing 777 was found this month.
Tensions between the families of MH370 passengers, mostly Chinese, and the Malaysian government have long plagued the search of the missing plane, which was last heard of in March 2014. With the news that a part of the plane has likely been found—French officials say there is a “strong possibility,” while Malaysian Prime Minister Nijab Razak said the flaperon’s origin was “confirmed“—relatives appear torn between believing in the news or demanding more information before accepting the closure that finding the plane would bring.
To that end, a group of about 50 relatives are demanding to meet with Malaysian government officials, as they have only had meetings with officials from Malaysia Airlines, who are as beholden to news from the government as the relatives themselves. They are also demanding Malaysia Airlines fly them all to Reunion Island to search for debris themselves, in the hopes of finding personal items that would confirm the plane’s final resting place.
Many of the family members convening insisted they could not trust the Malaysian government, and the pressure from Beijing was necessary. “I can’t trust them… This is not the first time they get the wrong news… Why?” said Wang Wing Lei, whose parents were on the flight. “These findings are fake. This is a conspiracy. Everything is fake,” added Dai Shuqin, who lost a sister on the flight.
Dai told NBC News she wanted to fly to Reunion. “We can tell what belongs to our loved ones,” she noted.
The relatives, clearly angry, attempted to storm the embassy and were held back by police, creating a dramatic scene.
Lu Zhanzhong, who lost a son on the flight, also demanded to fly to Reunion. “I want to see if my son’s luggage is there,” he said. He insisted the Chinese government “has only repressed us… they come to our houses and stop us from giving interviews.” While the Chinese government has worked to keep the relatives from causing public disorder and generally frowns upon public assemblies demanding political change—in this case, from the Malaysian government—in the past year, they have been far more accommodating of the protests than of any similar behavior targeting the Chinese government.
Some family members say they are not waiting for Malaysia Airlines to fly to Reunion Island themselves. “The wing debris found on the island is only a small part of the plane, and there must be more, larger parts to be found,” says Wen Wancheng, who has vowed to go and find his son’s belongings. “I will go and persuade other family members to go.”