Malaysia Airlines MH370: Relatives in Beijing scuffles

The BBC's Celia Hatton: "We're witnessing a very rare street protest in Beijing"

Angry relatives of passengers on board the missing Malaysia Airlines plane have clashed with police outside Malaysia's embassy in the Chinese capital, Beijing.

It came after Malaysian PM Najib Razak said a new analysis of satellite data showed the plane had ended its journey in remote seas south-west of Australia.

China has asked to see the data on which Malaysia's conclusion was based.

The search for flight MH370 has resumed after weather conditions improved.

At the scene

The scenes in Beijing are a demonstration of the extreme levels of anger and frustration felt by relatives of those on the missing plane.

Public street protests are illegal in China but the fact that these relatives were able to organise themselves together, wearing matching T-shirts and carrying professionally printed banners, indicates they feel they have nothing left to lose.

Relatives left their hotel and first boarded three city buses which they said would take them to Malaysia's embassy in downtown Beijing.

But a thin line of Chinese police blocked those buses. So the relatives left the buses, broke through police lines and simply marched to the embassy themselves, chanting slogans like: "We want the truth". Banners read "Mum, Dad, without you what will I do?" and "We want the truth from Malaysia".

Many of the families are convinced that the Malaysian authorities have been distorting facts. Their actions today show they will risk breaking the law and angering the Chinese government in order to get the information they feel they deserve.

The plane disappeared on 8 March as it flew from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board, including 153 Chinese nationals.

In Beijing, relatives of the passengers released a statement accusing the Malaysian government of trying to "delay, distort and hide the truth".

Dozens then left their Beijing hotel on a protest bound for the Malaysian embassy. Police stopped their buses from leaving, so they got off and walked to the diplomatic mission.

Scuffles broke out as protesters threw water bottles and tried to storm the building, demanding to meet the ambassador.

In a BBC interview, Malaysia Airlines chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya defended his company against criticism from the families.

"I think it's unfair," he said. "I think we've done all we can within our means to help them."

Final signal

The families appear to be becoming more critical of the Chinese authorities themselves, the BBC's Celia Hatton reports from Beijing.

While some defended the authorities, others denounced the Chinese government as "corrupt".

BBC asks airline boss Ahmad Jauhari Yahya if he feels "personally responsible"

Meanwhile acting Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the latest analysis of satellite data showed a final automatic signal - known as a "handshake" or "ping" - that was still being investigated.

"There is evidence of a partial handshake between the aircraft and ground station at 0019 UTC (GMT)," he told a news conference on Tuesday. "At this time, this transmission is not understood and is subject to further ongoing work."

If confirmed, this signal would have been sent more than seven hours after contact with air traffic control was lost, and eight minutes after the last confirmed handshake.

A multinational search effort has focused on seas some 2,500km (1,500 miles) to the south-west of the Australian city of Perth.

Map of search zone for flight MH370

The transport minister said that as a result of the latest analysis, the area of search had been narrowed from 2.24m sq nautical miles to 469,407 sq nautical miles.

What we know

  • Flight MH370 to Beijing took off from Kuala Lumpur on Saturday 8 March at 00:41 local time (16:41 GMT Friday)
  • It diverted from its planned flight path, and contact between the plane and ground controllers ceased less than an hour after take-off; no distress signal or message was sent
  • Last contact with air traffic controllers at 01:19 Malaysian time, after which all on-board communications ceased when the plane's transponder was switched off
  • Plane's movements picked up by different countries' military radar and satellites after this, providing incomplete information about its course
  • Sophisticated analysis of satellite data has now narrowed down the search area - but this is still a vast area of the Indian Ocean

Operations in the northern corridor - one of two large areas where the plane might have ended its journey - had been completely called off to concentrate on the southern part of the southern corridor in the Indian Ocean, he added.

The Malaysian PM said on Monday it had to be concluded "with deep sadness and regret" that "flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean".

Mr Najib said the conclusion the plane was lost was based on new satellite analysis by British firm Inmarsat and information from the UK's Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB).

But Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Xie Hangsheng issued a statement saying: "We demand the Malaysian side state the detailed evidence that leads them to this judgement, as well as supply all the relevant information and evidence about the satellite data analysis.

"The search and rescue work cannot stop now. We demand the Malaysian side continue to finish all the work including search and rescue."

Chinese relatives of passengers onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, flight MH370, shout in protest as they march towards the Malaysia embassy in Beijing, China, Tuesday, March 25, 2014 Most of those on board the missing aircraft were Chinese. Angry relatives marched on the Malaysian embassy on Tuesday.
Grieving Chinese relatives of passengers on missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 try to remove a police barricade blocking journalists as they gather to protest outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on March 25, 2014 They are angry about what they see as the mishandling of the situation by Malaysia Airlines and the Malaysian government.
Royal Australia Air Force AP-3C Orion runs its engines in Perth, Australia, Tuesday, March 25, 2014 Meanwhile, a massive search operation for the plane in the Indian Ocean has been halted by poor weather conditions.

Malaysia Airlines has said it will make arrangements to fly relatives of those on board MH370 to Australia.

'Hazardous' search

Planes from several nations, supported by an Australian warship, have been scouring waters far off Perth for signs of the missing plane, in a search co-ordinated by Australia.

Hishammuddin Hussein: "All search efforts are now focused in the southern part of the southern corridor."

There have been several sightings of debris, but none has yet been confirmed as being linked to the plane.

On Tuesday, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (Amsa) said it had suspended the air-and-sea search for the day because of hazardous weather conditions.

Early on Wednesday, Amsa tweeted: "Search operations for #MH370 will resume today after weather conditions in the search area improved."

Australia's Defence Minister David Johnston has described the search as a "massive logistical exercise" in an "extremely remote" part of the world.

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