My Take
PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 April, 2014, 4:43am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 April, 2014, 4:43am

Chinese families' aggression won't help to find missing flight MH370


Alex Lo is a senior writer at the South China Morning Post. He writes editorials and the daily “My Take” column on page 2. He also edits the weekly science and technology page in Sunday Morning Post.

There was a poignant moment during a BBC news segment last week on the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 when the tearful relatives of a missing couple from New Zealand thanked the many nations that have devoted resources to search for the plane.

With their quiet dignity and measure of acceptance, it will probably be much easier for them to find closure after their heartbreaking loss, regardless of the results of the search and what caused the plane's disappearance. By contrast, many Chinese relatives and their online supporters have been behaving like raging bulls. They have made wild accusations and physically confronted Malaysian officials. Perhaps they find it natural to act out their anger and frustrations. That's understandable. Whether or not that helps anyone in the search for the plane is a different matter. In the end, non-Chinese families of the missing passengers, I am sure, grieve as much as we Chinese. And you don't see them displaying the same level of aggression.

There is no doubt the Malaysian airline and government initially fumbled in their handling of arguably the greatest aviation crisis their country has faced. They displayed a level of incompetence and inexperience that was quite breathtaking, at least initially. But to be fair, their performance and co-ordination improved over the following weeks; and officials from Prime Minister Najib Razak downwards have shown patience and humanity.

Because officialdom in China is often unresponsive and unaccountable, it has become second nature for many Chinese to mistrust government accounts and fight officials. Confrontation and aggression become their default mode in fighting for what they think they are within their rights to demand. Such behaviour has been on ample display in the relatives' dealings with the Malaysians. But whatever their faults, I am sure officials from the Malaysian airline and the government are not murderers or conspirators, as some Chinese families have accused them of being.

Beijing is right to distance itself from such statements. The relatives deserve all the help they can get, including some kind and honest advice to moderate their behaviour.