Beijing - Relatives of the Chinese passengers aboard missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 have demanded China mount its own inquiry into the disappearance, a letter shows.
The document, sent to Beijing's special envoy in Kuala Lumpur, denounced Malaysia's handling of the search and asked the Chinese government to set up its own “investigation office”.
News of the letter comes as a committee set up by relatives of the 153 Chinese passengers has begun discussions with lawyers about a potential lawsuit against Malaysia Airlines, a move that the family members have hotly debated among themselves.
“We question Malaysia's motivations in misleading and delaying so as to miss the best moment to find MH370,” the relatives wrote in the letter to special envoy Zhang Yesui on Thursday, blasting Kuala Lumpur's behaviour as “irresponsible” and “inhumane”.
“We earnestly request that China establish an investigation office into MH370,” the letter states, also urging “an effective communication system between the relatives and the government”.
Beijing has urged Kuala Lumpur to include Chinese experts in its own investigation, but has not so far spoken of setting up its own inquiry into the flight.
Asked about the request, foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters on Friday: “We have repeatedly pointed out that under the current circumstances what is pressing now is the search.”
There were 153 Chinese citizens on board the flight and the letter came days after frustrated family members staged a protest in front of the Malaysian embassy in Beijing.
Relatives have also clashed with senior Malaysian officials in briefings at the Lido Hotel in Beijing, with some openly insulting them and accusing Kuala Lumpur of hiding the truth.
The family members' requests to the Malaysian government listed in the letter include an official apology, along with return airfares to Malaysia and the provision of food and accommodation until the resolution of the search, now in its 20th day.
The family members hailed Beijing's efforts but also called for greater support, including legal assistance and the full participation of Chinese authorities in the search.
“Uphold the rights and interests of the people. Do not simply give up,” the letter reads. “Exhibit the demeanour of a great nation!”
According to China's official Xinhua news agency, Zhang met family members of the passengers on Thursday in Kuala Lumpur.
“Our goal is to make every effort to find our missing countrymen,” he told them, according to Xinhua.
As anger over Malaysia's handling of the search simmers, some relatives posting in a group on China's popular WeChat social messaging app debated the issue of whether to seek legal assistance.
A committee formed by the families has been in contact with the Ribbeck Law Firm in Chicago about a potential lawsuit against Malaysia Airlines, the state-run China Daily newspaper reported on Friday.
But several family members posting to the WeChat group on Friday urged that it was too early to discuss the idea of a lawsuit or compensation.
“We still don't know the truth,” wrote one relative. “Sooner or later, we will get compensation, with our country behind us, so what's the rush?”
Another wrote: “Anyone who is talking with lawyers about compensation right now doesn't even count as human.” - AFP