BEIJING — Chinese families are demanding compensation and the truth about what happened to their loved ones almost 10 years after Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared in one of the greatest aviation mysteries of all time.
“We have suffered for a decade without any resolution,” Hu Xiufang, 72, whose son, daughter-in-law and and granddaughter were on the plane, told NBC News. “I worry about whether I can wait for another 10 years, whether I can live for another 10 years.”
The Boeing 777 flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing vanished shortly after takeoff on March 8, 2014, and is believed to have crashed into the Indian Ocean. Despite months of international search efforts, nothing has ever been found of the plane aside from a few parts that washed up on beaches.
Investigators have been unable to determine what happened, leaving open a number of possibilities including mechanical failure, hijacking or the plane being deliberately taken off course by its pilots. The lack of hard evidence has also fueled conspiracy theories, with some relatives asserting their loved ones could still be alive somewhere.
More than 150 of the 239 passengers and crew members on board were Chinese citizens. Chinese state media reported that more than 40 families who have not yet settled with Malaysia Airlines are demanding compensation of between 10 million and 80 million yuan ($1.4 million to $11.2 million), citing the loss of their loved ones as well as resulting mental anguish and financial difficulties.
The compensation hearings began Monday at Chaoyang District People’s Court in Beijing, where there was a heavy police and media presence.
The families are suing Malaysia Airlines and its corporate predecessor along with Boeing, British engine maker Rolls-Royce and German insurer Allianz.
A Boeing spokesperson said the company’s “thoughts continue to be with those who were on board MH370 and their loved ones.” Allianz declined to comment. The other companies did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment.
Jiang Hui, 50, a spokesperson for the families whose mother was on the plane, said Malaysia Airlines had “set unreasonable conditions and used many tactics” in providing compensation.
“Their current attitude is that if families have issues, they should go to court, and Malaysia Airlines is no longer responsible,” he said.
Jiang described the start of hearings in the lawsuits, which were first filed years ago, as a “turning point.”
“The MH370 incident is complex, but the law case isn’t complicated,” he told reporters in an alleyway near the courthouse. “The defendants and plaintiffs are clear, and the application of foreign laws and international conventions is clear.”
Jiang said he hoped the case could be handled openly and fairly, saying family members and the media were not allowed in the courtroom on Monday without explanation.
“No one could participate in the court proceedings,” he said. “We find it difficult to understand and feel helpless.”
The plaintiffs’ other demands include the provision of funds for continued searches as well as mental health services for family members.
The most recent attempt to find the plane was in 2018 by Ocean Infinity, a marine robotics company based in Austin, Texas. The company said last year that it was committed to a new search on a “no find, no fee” basis.
In an open letter on Monday to Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, relatives of the Chinese passengers asked to resume the search for the plane at their own expense or in cooperation with others, saying technological advances had greatly reduced the cost.
Hu said her son was a manager in a Sino-American joint venture who was returning from a vacation in Thailand with his wife and children.
“Throughout these 10 years, I have never given up searching for my son,” said Hu, who said there had been a lack of support from the Chinese government and Malaysia Airlines.
Hu said she wanted to find her family and “receive a reasonable and lawful explanation.”
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Monday that China valued the follow-up to the MH370 incident and hopes all sides will maintain close communication and handle the issue properly.
The Malaysian Ministry of Transport did not reply to a request for comment.
Family members said they expected the Beijing hearings to continue until mid-December.
“Whether here or not, resolved or unresolved, the intentions of the families have not changed: to find the plane, to find the people,” Jiang said. “This intention has not changed in the slightest, and we will continue to persist.”