BEIJING: China’s strident calls for Malaysia to divulge all it knows about flight MH370 are in stark contrast to its own history of secretiveness when calamities have struck, such as after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, analysts say.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Monday asked Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to provide details about the missing flight “in a timely, accurate and comprehensive manner”, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
The call followed more than a week’s worth of scathing editorials in China’s state-run media demanding greater openness from Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia Airlines.
“Unless transparency is ensured, the huge international search operation can never be as fruitful as we hope and expect,” read one of several Xinhua commentaries.
“When faced with catastrophe, honesty is human beings’ best solution to finding a chance to prevent tragedies happening again,” it continued.
Yet at Monday’s regular Chinese foreign ministry press briefing, spokesman Hong Lei declined to provide details when faced with a series of questions regarding China’s role in the search.
Could China rule out the possibility of the missing aircraft entering its airspace?
Were any of the 153 Chinese passengers aboard the aircraft being investigated?
Was China searching on land as well as on sea?
Were any searches being conducted in the restive western regions of Tibet and Xinjiang, where satellite data suggests the aircraft could have flown?
Hong declined to give factual answers, saying that “the relevant search operation is going on, and we will cooperate actively with the Malaysian side to carry on with the search efforts”.
It was not until a day later that Xinhua cited China’s ambassador to Malaysia Huang Huikang revealing that Beijing had indeed begun searching for the missing plane in Chinese territory.
Chinese authorities last week released satellite photographs of three floating objects they said could have been related to the missing flight, but offered no explanation for the images being made public three days after being taken.
Chinese media have been instructed to follow Xinhua’s lead in reporting the incident, according to insiders – a regular occurrence.
The International Federation of Journalists said in a statement: “It is deeply regrettable that Chinese authorities continue to use methods such as these to control the flow of much-needed information, particularly for those desperately awaiting updates on the investigation.”
Beijing’s reticence is not surprising, analysts say, noting that for the countries taking part in the search, geopolitical sensitivities are as much at play as humanitarian considerations. — AFP