Beijing – Chinese relatives of passengers on board the missing flight MH370 gathered under a heavy police presence Sunday to mark one year since the plane disappeared.
About two thirds of those on board the Malaysia Airlines flight were Chinese, but relatives say they have faced harassment from authorities in their own country as they seek answers on the world’s biggest aviation mystery.
China’s ruling Communist Party commonly clamps down in organised gatherings or collective expressions of anger as it seeks to enforce stability.
Chinese relatives had planned to commemorate the disappearance of the Boeing 777 at a number of sites in Beijing, including the Malaysian embassy, the airport and the Lama Temple, a popular Tibetan Buddhist place of worship and tourist site.
Dozens of uniformed security sealed the street around the diplomatic mission, an AFP reporter saw, while relatives said they had opted to avoid the airport as police were out in force.
About 30 visited the Lama Temple, with around 10 entering the site in groups of two or three to pay their personal respects, as if attempting to keep a low profile.
The remainder waited outside the temple in a group, wearing T-shirts saying “Pray for MH370″, and waving placards to photographers reading “Keep searching for MH370″.
But most media had been moved on from the area by police, with one officer telling AFP that it was a regulation enforced by the temple.
“The ones wearing the clothes with the words ‘Pray for MH370′ would find it hard to get in (to the temple),” relatives’ leader Steven Wang told AFP.
“We were originally planning to go the embassy or the airport, but I heard they are tons of police officers in the two places, especially the embassy. The police have enforced martial law in the area surrounding it,” added Wang, whose mother was on the plane.
Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi told a press conference on the sidelines of the National People’s Congress, China’s Communist-controlled parliament, that the search effort for MH370 would continue.
“Today will be a tough day for the next of kin of passengers on board the flight, our hearts are with you,” he said, telling the relatives Beijing would “help safeguard your legitimate and lawful requests and interests”.
After waiting for about 90 minutes outside the temple, the relatives walked away to a nearby restaurant, under the close watch of police. – AFP