Monday, March 31, 2014

China's Anguish

Relatives of Chinese passengers on MH370 has been accusing the M'sians of duplicity and incompetence in the handling of the missing plane. Some of the accusations are probably justified (the incompetence at least), but certainly some accusations were excessive. Over the top. Even unfair. 

Now a voice of rationality, and an explanation.

Mar 31, 2014

China media call for rationality over MH370

BEIJING (AFP) - China should treat the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 "rationally", a commentary in state media said on Monday, after days of lurid accusations by relatives insisting their loved ones could still be alive.

Under the headline "Treat MH370 tragedy rationally", the commentary in the China Daily newspaper, which is run by the government, said: "It is certain that flight MH370 crashed in the Indian Ocean and no one on board survived."

"We should not let anger prevail over facts and rationality," it said.

"We need to comply with the fundamental norms of a civilised society and need to show the demeanour of a great power."

Irrational words and behaviour would "not help matters", it added, and those involved should "prepare to make arrangements for funerals".

"Although the Malaysian government's handling of the crisis has been quite clumsy, we need to understand this is perhaps the most bizarre incident in Asian civil aviation history. It is understandable that as a developing country, the Malaysia government felt completely at a loss."

It stressed that finding the aircraft and analysing technical data would take time.

"Why cannot we be patient and just wait until they find the wreckage and get the evidence?" it asked.

"Public opinion should not blame the Malaysian authorities for deliberately covering up information in the absence of hard evidence," it added.

The author, Mei Xinyu, is a researcher at a commerce ministry institute who is known for his analyses of international trade disputes.

His tone was in stark contrast to that of many relatives
of the 153 Chinese on board the flight, who are still clinging to hopes that they could somehow still be alive.

Some have demanded that Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak withdraw and apologise for his announcement based on satellite data and other calculations that the plane was lost in the southern Indian Ocean.

"We just have to close our eyes and we see our loved ones there, out there, in pain, desperate for someone to rescue them," one man said on Sunday at a hotel in Beijing where the relatives have been waiting for news.

"Such a long time has passed, but nevertheless the facts do give us grounds to be sure that our loved ones are still alive and that the plane is out there, somewhere."

Some have embraced bizarre conspiracy theories involving the plane being hijacked and taken to a secret location and the passengers held hostage.

Scores of Chinese relatives were allowed by authorities in Beijing - who normally keep a tight lid on public dissent - to protest at Malaysia's embassy last week, shouting that Kuala Lumpur authorities were "murderers".

A day later, relatives called the Malaysian ambassador to Beijing a "liar" and a "rogue" during a meeting.

In the first days after the plane's disappearance Chinese officials were critical of the Malaysian response, but have since moderated their tone, although they still talk of there being a "glimmer of hope" and are urging Kuala Lumpur to bring Chinese experts into the investigation.


Mar 31, 2014

MH370: When grief turns into anger

Unique psyche of Chinese people may explain behaviour of relatives

By Kor Kian Beng China Bureau Chief In Beijing

DIFFERENT people grieve in different ways.

For about 400 grief-stricken relatives of the 153 Chinese passengers on board missing Flight MH370, their behaviour has run the gamut from going on a hunger strike, and gatecrashing an official press briefing in Kuala Lumpur, to protesting in front of the Malaysian Embassy in Beijing and hurling insults at Malaysian government and airline officials at meetings.

They were protesting against the pace and course of investigations and demanding to know why the Malaysia Airlines (MAS) plane never made it to its intended destination, Beijing, and how it could have remained missing since March 8.

Media reports of their behaviour contrasted sharply with that of other families who also have relatives - of 13 nationalities - on the plane.

At a news briefing in Kuala Lumpur last Wednesday, one day after about 200 Chinese demanding answers marched to the Malaysian Embassy in Beijing, Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said: "But the Chinese families must also understand that Malaysia also lost loved ones and many other nations also lost loved ones.

"I have seen images (of relatives) from Australia: very rational, understanding this is a global effort, not blaming Malaysia, because it is coordinating something unprecedented."

Given the negative light that may have been cast on the Chinese family members' actions, it is not just fair but also necessary to examine the factors behind their behaviour and whether most people, if in the same plight and living in the Chinese society, would have responded the same way.

A key reason has to do with the unique psyche of the Chinese people.
After living here for two years, I have come to realise just how much the Chinese people suspect their government and officials of covering up scandals or hiding the truth. Just take a look at the Chinese cyberspace, where netizens often poke holes at official pronouncements and slam government policies.

This helps explain why many relatives, until now, still believe that the Malaysian government is not coming clean on the missing plane.

Second, many Chinese here believe in taking things into their own hands and also in the law of the jungle - only the fittest, as well as the loudest, wins.

I was once standing in line at an airport check-in counter when a group of men rudely cut in. When I told them off, they started heckling me and calling me blind.

Perhaps this is why the relatives who are in Beijing have been extremely vocal in their anger and demands as shown during meetings with Malaysian officials and the embassy protest last Tuesday.

Agreeing, Beijing-based analyst Hu Xingdou said: "China is not a law-based society but one ruled and determined largely by the elite few. So the people know that they have to kick up a fuss, fight, and struggle to get their way."
Residual hatred for catastrophic events, such as the decade-long Cultural Revolution, could also have been a trigger for the excessive anger, Prof Hu said.

The society's focus on making money and becoming rich over the past 30 years has also diluted social values such as character- building at home or in school, leading many to act in less restrained or ungentlemanly ways, he added.

Other factors may include a sense of superiority, boosted by China's rise as a future superpower and the nationalistic efforts under President Xi Jinping's "China Dream" slogan.

This is evident from the postings of some Chinese netizens and even celebrities regarding the MH370 saga.

Rock singer Wang Feng, on his Twitter-like Weibo site, accused Malaysia of "fooling around with a great and proud world power".

Ultimately, the most powerful force driving the Chinese relatives' behaviour has to be their fear of losing their loved ones, forever. Emotions running high - grief, anguish, anger, fear - cannot be assuaged easily.

It does not help that the relatives have been riding an emotional roller coaster for the past three weeks, having seen their hopes raised and then dashed by the many twists and turns in the multinational search effort - with still no end in sight.

So when Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced last Monday that, based on the latest satellite analysis, the conclusion is that the flight "ended in the southern Indian Ocean", the Chinese relatives lashed out in anger.

Sociologists say that three weeks of living together with complete strangers who are equally grief-stricken and angry could have magnified these emotions and triggered extreme behaviour.

"The MAS gathered them at hotels to provide better care, but it also caused a negative side- effect by aggravating their emotions," said sociologist Tang Jun of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"However, I think we should be more understanding about the behaviour of these relatives. It has been a very long wait for news of their loved ones."

Would I have acted the way they did? Probably not. But then, I'm not in their shoes.

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