Families of the passengers on board Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 reacted strongly to the Malaysian government's decision Thursday to officially declare the plane's disappearance an accident. Malaysian authorities announced the plane's 239 passengers and crew are now presumed dead, but added that "the search for MH370 remains a priority.”
The Boeing 777 went missing on March 8 during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, triggering an ongoing international effort that has become the most expensive search operation in aviation history. However, relatives of the people on board reportedly expressed dissatisfaction at the decision and called on the country's government to do more. According to The Sun Daily, dozens of protesters went to the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on Thursday. The majority of the passengers on the flight were Chinese.
“We still have great hope that our relatives are still alive,” a protester reportedly said, while a post on Weibo, a Chinese microblogging site, reportedly said: “Don’t declare MH370 lost without evidence.”
Beijing police officers reportedly isolated the area around the embassy with over 50 police vehicles and five firetrucks to ensure peaceful protests. About 15 protesters were reportedly later taken by police and brought to a support center while others sat on the street, refusing to move.
“The search is not over and they have not gotten enough evidence to conclude the aircraft is lost,” Zhang Yuxi, the father of one of the passengers, reportedly said. “It would be a disrespect to life and a disrespect to the Chinese people [to call off the search],” he said. “I miss my child and cannot sleep many nights.”
According to the BBC, the Chinese government asked the Malaysian government to arrange for compensation for the families and relatives of the victims.
"We call on the Malaysian side to honor the promise made when they declared the flight to have been lost and earnestly fulfil their compensation responsibilities," Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China's foreign ministry, reportedly said in a statement.
In an official statement from the Malaysian government, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, director general of Malaysia's civil aviation department, had said: "The Government of Malaysia also assures the families of the passengers and crew that the search for MH370 remains a priority. The Government of Malaysia, is committed to continue all reasonable efforts to bring closure to this unfortunate tragedy, with the continuing cooperation and assistance of the Governments of China and Australia."
On Friday, Australia's Joint Agency Coordination Centre, which has been leading the search efforts for the airliner, said in a statement that the Australian government "remains committed to the search for MH370."
Malaysian authorities are expected to release a detailed report on March 7, a day short of the one-year anniversary of the plane's disappearance.