MH370: Tempers flare as relatives meet airline staff

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iol pic wld_MALAYSIA-AIRLINES-_0425_11 Reuters Police stand guard as family members of passengers aboard missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 gather for a sit-in protest outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing. Picture: Jason Lee

Beijing -

A meeting between relatives of Chinese passengers aboard missing Flight MH370 and Malaysia Airlines staff descended into chaos on Thursday, 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 Thursday'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.

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.

About two-thirds of those on board were Chinese and their loved ones have complained bitterly about what they see as Malaysia's secretive and incompetent handling of the search.

“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 your staff,” added the 63-year-old tearfully, as he was comforted by other relatives.

Last month, emotional relatives of the Chinese passengers scuffled with guards outside Malaysia's embassy and abused the ambassador, demanding answers about the plane's mysterious disappearance in the Indian Ocean. - Sapa-AFP

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