Relatives Still Skeptical Malaysia Plane Lost at Sea

BEIJING (AP) -

The PowerPoint presentation wasn’t enough. The analysis by British investigators that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was lost at sea wasn’t enough. The relatives of Chinese passengers gathered in a hotel banquet hall on Wednesday were still skeptical — and hostile.

“It’s all lies. Not a shred of truth!” said a man who identified himself as Mr. Zhang from the Chinese city of Harbin. He said afterward that he had wanted to pummel everyone giving the presentation — a delegation of Malaysian government and airline officials.

During a nearly two-hour question-and-answer session, audience members asked how investigators could have reached conclusions about the direction and speed of the plane, and delegation members said they didn’t have the technical expertise to answer.

One woman retorted, “I thought this was a high-level team!” to applause from the crowd.

Though many observers criticized Malaysia’s initial response to the crisis, the Chinese relatives of passengers — two-thirds of whom were Chinese — have been especially distrustful.

Zhang Lifan, a Beijing-based independent commentator, said such mistrust is part of life in China.

“Chinese citizens live in an environment where information is not transparent and they naturally assume that the authorities, whether Chinese or otherwise, are misinforming them,” Zhang said, adding that people have “the default position of feeling cheated.”

China’s government has gone out of its way to be seen as supporting the passengers’ relatives. Normally extremely wary of any demonstrations, authorities permitted Tuesday’s rare protest at the Malaysian Embassy in which relatives chanted slogans, threw water bottles and briefly tussled with police who kept them separated from a swarm of journalists.

Some of the Chinese relatives may have an especially hard time dealing with the loss of loved ones because many of them have only one child, which means an entire generation, or even two, can be wiped out in a single incident.

Ma Xuemei, who was at the hotel in Beijing, said her sister and brother-in-law’s only child — a 27-year-old woman — was aboard Flight 370 returning from a work assignment in Malaysia. Now the couple is struggling with the idea that their daughter went down in the Indian Ocean.

“The water is so deep there and how can their daughter survive? They cannot have children anymore, and imagine how they will spend the rest of their lives,” Ma said.