Flight MH370

Malaysia Airlines flight 370

Malaysians lose patience with Chinese fury and scorn over missing flight

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 April, 2014, 3:53am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 June, 2014, 3:04pm

At the coffee shop where an old man flipped some roti canai, Mohammad Noor could not contain his anger another moment.

"If China is so good, why don't they just take over and find the plane," said the 30-year-old petrol kiosk employee. His friends nodded in approval. "I don't think even Singapore could have done a better job."

Malaysians want the Chinese to know something: they, too, lost people when the Malaysia Airlines flight vanished. And they want the insults to cease.

For more than three weeks, residents and relatives in the besieged nation have endured worldwide scorn as the hunt continues for flight MH370. Chinese officials and relatives have accused Malaysian officials of withholding data, botching the investigation, even lying about the fact that the plane had ditched into the Indian Ocean.

Malaysian citizens, media and government officials have quietly seethed, and have heard enough. They want an end to what they see as a vulgar display of superiority and an overreaction by the Chinese over the missing airliner.

Video: Flight MH370 families pray as airline offers little solace

At the Everly Hotel in Putrajaya, the site of an official briefing for the passengers' relatives, Gurusamy Subramaniam was there to learn more about the fate of his 34-year-old son, who was aboard the flight. He had quietly endured Chinese complaints. But TV footage last week of Chinese relatives protesting outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing was the last straw, he said.

"What's the point? Will violence or protests bring the passengers back?" the 60-year-old said in Tamil. He admitted he had trouble sleeping. "All of us are suffering inside in our hearts."

On Sunday, a new group of relatives from China arrived in the Malaysian capital and staged their own press conference at the Holiday Villa, an expensive hotel in Subang. They unfurled Chinese state flags and banners and condemned Malaysians.

"Let me ask you something,'' said a Malaysian government official. "Which country do you think will allow others from another country to come and let them stay in a great hotel and allow them to throw insults? We've been very nice already. I hope they realise that."

Malaysian media, especially the local Chinese press, has published op-ed pieces condemning Chinese actions, but some newspapers have also asked readers to consider the bigger picture.

Social media has buzzed as Malaysians question the motives behind the Chinese behaviour.

James Chin, a professor of political science at the Malaysian campus of Monash University, said Malaysians initially had been sympathetic towards the Chinese.

"But marching to the Malaysian embassy was the turning point," he said. "It's hypocrisy. The Chinese won't dare do anything like this against their own government, which is one of the most opaque in the world."

But most analysts are confident the fallout will not continue in the long term. For Malaysia especially, there is too much at stake; China is a key trading partner and rich source of tourists. Najib Razak, Malaysia's prime minister, has just launched a 4 billion ringgit (HK$9.5 billion) development in Langkawi aimed in part at Chinese tourists.