Lone voice: The Malaysian delegation listening to the Chinese committee member talk in the hotel ballroom in Beijing. - AFP
BEIJING: Family members of Chinese passengers on board MH370 staged a mass walkout during a briefing by a high-level Malaysian delegation here.
A member of the committee that represents the relatives had asked them to leave the Lido Hotel ballroom as a show of discontent.
The families are convinced that the Malaysian authorities were hiding facts concerning the airliner, which had gone missing with 239 passengers and crew members.
Delegation members had just finished answering questions posed to them by the families a day earlier when the committee member stood up and addressed the crowd.
“Have you heard any updates related to our loved ones from the delegation?” he asked. “Have you heard any answers from the delegation in response to our key queries?”
The crowd shouted “No” in unison.
The man then asked the family members to leave the ballroom and to go “discuss the next course of action” with the committee in another room.
He stressed that the families should do so voluntarily.
After all the relatives had left, the man posed several questions to the delegation and then concluded with: “You have seen from the incident today that the Chinese people and the next-of-kin are united.
“What you are hiding now will ultimately see the light of the day. There will certainly be people who will receive due punishment.”
Despite the awkwardness of the situation, members of the delegation remained seated at the front of the ballroom.
They were Malaysian ambassador to China Datuk Iskandar Sarudin, Royal Malaysian Air Force air operations commander Lt-Jen Datuk Seri Ackbal Abdul Samad, Department of Civil Aviation air traffic services director Ahmad Nizar Zolfakar and representatives from Malaysia Airlines.
Lt-Jen Ackbal then spoke to the man.
“We would like to ask you how we can move forward from here. We have been trying our best to keep you updated and we have nothing to hide.
“We are telling you what we can tell. There are a few ongoing inquiries and we can only reveal information that will not jeopardise the investigations,” he said.
The representative retorted: “I do not want to hear you saying that you need to go back and check when we ask you simple questions.
“You no longer have to protect the safety of hostages. Which one do you put first, national interest or (the) search and rescue mission?”
After that, the man asked the delegation and news media to leave the ballroom because the families wanted the place for a closed-door meeting.
As the family members started streaming back in, the delegation and newsmen stood up and left.
Yesterday’s meeting was the sixth between the delegation and the families; one session lasted seven hours without a break.