BEIJING – Chinese relatives of passengers aboard the Malaysia Airlines plane that went missing six months ago Monday marked the date by praying at a Beijing temple, after police broke up a gathering they held outside.
More than 30 relatives gathered outside the Lama Temple and listened to one of them deliver a speech about how much he missed his daughter, leading many of the family members to break into tears in the presence of journalists from domestic and foreign media, said relative Dai Shuqin. Some wore T-shirts that read “Pray for MH370 to return home safe and sound.”
Police then asked them to stop, said Dai, whose sister was on Flight 370 with her husband, daughter, son-in-law and grandchild. About seven or eight plainclothes officers standing in a row tried to separate reporters from relatives and then told the family members not to enter the temple in a big group, Dai said. Afterward, the family members bought admission tickets in groups of two to three and prayed inside.
The jetliner disappeared March 8 after veering off its northerly course from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing and has become one of aviation’s biggest mysteries. It is thought to have crashed about 1,800 kilometres (1,100 miles) off Australia’s west coast, but no trace of the aircraft or the 239 people aboard – 153 of whom were Chinese nationals – has been found despite an exhaustive search.
Displaying their frustration, Chinese relatives and their supporters have organized sporadic marches to the Malaysian Embassy and a demonstration outside the airline’s Beijing office to demand answers on their loved ones’ fate. They have also prayed at local temples.
Family members say they have come under tighter watch by Chinese police, and, in contrast to the massive coverage when the plane went missing, hardly any reporters from domestic media have been present at events organized by the relatives in recent months. Foreign media have also been prevented from filming them praying.
Dai said there was growing anger and dissatisfaction among the relatives toward the Chinese government. “We also feel very helpless … because we need to rely on the government for their assistance and support and hope they can put pressure on the Malaysian airline to find out the truth,” she said.