MH370: 'Families won't give up'
Emotional relatives of those aboard Flight MH370 on Friday demanded answers to one of the world's greatest aviation mysteries and called for the hunt to resume, five years on from the plane's disappearance. The Malaysia Airlines jet, a Boeing 777-200ER aircraft, disappeared after it stopped sending communications hours into its flight on March 8, 2014. It was carrying 239 people — mostly from China — en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
The subsequent hunt formed one of the largest surface and underwater searches in aviation history. The plane's final resting place remains unknown. No sign of it was found in a 120,000-square kilometer (46,000-square mile) Indian Ocean search zone and the Australian-led hunt, the largest in aviation history, was suspended in January 2017.
Read more: 'We'll continue to seek the truth about Flight MH370'
A US exploration firm launched a private hunt last year but it ended after several months of scouring the seabed without success.
In a DW interview, Jiang Hui, whose mother was in the flight, spoke about the difficult times the families of those on board the disappeared aircraft have been facing over the past five years.
DW: It's been five years since Flight MH370 vanished mid-air en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. How are the families of those on board the aircraft coping with this tragedy?
Jiang Hui: The families of the relatives are not satisfied with the investigation into the missing aircraft. Every year on March 8, we try to petition the Chinese foreign ministry and the Malaysian Embassy in Beijing. We also want to make a statement by marking the anniversary every year. The investigation has so far not produced results. No matter how long it takes — three, five or 10 years — the families will not give up. Some of our requests are not new. Many family members, for instance, are in dire need of psychological support, as they are facing serious mental health problems.
What do you mean by serious problems?
Many are facing depression and other mental illnesses. The affected families are also facing other problems, including financial ones. Two years ago, Malaysia Airlines stopped paying the compensation it initially promised, a move that caused great difficulties for the families. So we demand the airliner to honor its compensation commitments in accordance with its obligations under the international convention.
Read more: Malaysia's civil aviation chief resigns over MH370 failures
So Malaysia Airlines paid some money to the victims two years ago?
Yes, they agreed to pay, but it was not a long-term offer. Also at the time, some families were unwilling to accept the money. But five years after the incident, the situation now is much harder for the families. Many of them have lost their main income source, and they are in urgent need of financial assistance. Malaysia Airlines has stated that it's not going to pay any compensation if we don't sign a settlement agreement, which means forcing family members to sign a full exemption settlement in exchange for money. It is shameless and ugly.
We therefore urge the Chinese foreign ministry to take the issue up with the Malaysian government. We also go through the Chinese courts, but the legal process will take a relatively long time to conclude. We hope that all the parties will converge through political and diplomatic means.
We also sense a change in the way the Malaysian government under Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed is dealing with the issue of MH370. Malaysia's transport minister recently met us and announced plans to restart the search for the missing flight. We hope that the Chinese government will also issue a statement on restarting the search.
How have family members been able to support each other for the past five years?
Our group hasn't changed much over the past 3-4 years. The families are still communicating with each other, mainly through WeChat as well as with the help of the bi-monthly meetings organized by Malaysia Airlines, and some small-scale gatherings.
We help each other and support each other. To be honest, if there is no mutual understanding and support between family members, it would have been even more difficult to go through all these years.
How do you view the Chinese government's efforts in this regard over the past five years?
I really can't answer this question. I can only say that the Chinese foreign ministry and civil aviation authority could have done a lot more. I don't deny, however, that they have done a lot of work. Still, there is more room for improvement.
One fact that cannot be denied is that the world's attention to the MH370 incident has declined considerably. What's your take on this development?
It is normal and we can't change it. We try our level best to make sure that it receives the attention it deserves. But regardless of whether the world is concerned or not, we will not give up our efforts to continue the search for our relatives and the aircraft. This is definitely not going to happen.
The interview was conducted by Li Shitao. It has been edited and condensed for clarity.