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Mystery unites Chinese media and blogs
Malaysian govt becomes whipping boy

A relative of a passenger on board Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 sits on a chair after a meeting with the airline's representatives at Lido Hotel in Beijing on Monday. (Reuters)

New Delhi, March 17: Xie Lu’s posts on popular Chinese microblogging site Sina Weibo usually criticise her country’s administrators — frequently accused of corruption and nepotism. But over the past week, Xie’s posts have found a new target: Malaysia Airlines and the government of Malaysia.

“They’re redefining incompetence,” a post on Monday from Xie read. “They’re either lying and misleading, or are just pure incompetent.”

From the communist party’s official mouthpieces to blogs from ordinary citizens, China’s media has turned increasingly questioning and angry at Malaysia’s search for the missing MH370 plane that disappeared on its way to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur on March 8.

The criticism betrays frustration at the failure of Malaysia-led search operations to find the plane that carried over 150 Chinese passengers out of the total 239 on board, and growing suspicion that regional tensions are influencing the hunt for the aircraft, senior Chinese officials told The Telegraph.

But for once, the Chinese state-backed media is not facing a confrontation with usually critical social media bloggers.

Instead, the public outpouring of criticism on Weibo and QQ — the Chinese equivalents of Twitter and Facebook — is feeding into China’s official demands that Malaysia speeds up the search and share every tit-bit of information it discovers. Weibo has over 500 million registered users, and QQ has nearly 800 million users.

“The contradictory and piecemeal information Malaysia Airlines and its government have provided has made search efforts difficult and the entire incident even more mysterious,” the China Daily wrote in an editorial today. “What else is known that has not been shared with the world?”

Xinhua, China’s state news agency was even sharper in its criticism, calling Malaysia’s alleged lack of transparency in sharing information with Beijing “intolerable.”

“Due to the absence — or at least lack — of timely authoritative information, massive efforts have been squandered, and numerous rumours have been spawned, repeatedly racking the nerves of the awaiting families,” Xinhua wrote in an editorial today. “Given today’s technology, the delay smacks of either dereliction of duty or reluctance to share information in a full and timely manner. That would be intolerable.”

The Chinese foreign ministry has over the past week made multiple public statements demanding that Malaysia Airlines and the government of Malaysia hurry their investigation into the missing plane, and hinted at uneasiness at what Beijing considers Kuala Lumpur’s reluctance to share sensitive data with it.

“We hope that Malaysia can provide more thorough, accurate information to countries participating,” the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement today.

But the official demands and statements are also fuelled by fears that the expanding search for the plane, that now includes a corridor running through southwest China, could expose the country’s strategic defences to some of its biggest rivals — the US and Japan, countries that are helping in the hunt.

“The US and Japan would love to have access to details about our military radars, or other defence equipment,” a Chinese official said. “The longer the search drags near our borders and in our neighbourhood, the more we are concerned.”

Territorial disputes have raised tensions in China’s relations with most of its neighbours — including Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines.

INDIAN CLEAN CHIT

New Delhi on Monday told Malaysia it had conducted background checks on the five Indian nationals on board the missing flight and had found nothing suspicious about any
of them.

“We’re confident our nationals on the plane are clean, and we’ve told the Malaysians that,” a senior official said.

Officials said India also told Malaysia that none of its radars — civilian or military — had picked up signatures of any aircraft that could be MH370.

Malaysia had asked India and eight other nations that had nationals on the flight to scrutinise the backgrounds of passengers. The search in the South Andaman Sea has been suspended since Saturday.