Chinese families of missing Malaysia MH370 plane seek compensation in court

By Laurie Chen

BEIJING (Reuters) – A Beijing court on Monday began compensation hearings for the Chinese relatives of passengers on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which mysteriously disappeared over the Indian Ocean almost a decade ago, the plaintiffs said.

Over 150 Chinese passengers were on the flight which vanished en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014. Malaysian investigators did not rule out the possibility that the aircraft had been deliberately taken off course, and debris confirmed or believed to be from the aircraft has washed up along the coast of Africa and on islands in the Indian Ocean.

Relatives of these passengers said they were demanding compensation from Malaysia Airlines, Boeing, aircraft engine maker Rolls-Royce and Allianz insurance group among others.

The court did not release any details on the case, but state media said more than 40 relatives were seeking between 10 million and 80 million yuan ($1.4 million and $11.2 million) each in compensation.

Malaysia Airlines, Rolls-Royce, Allianz and Boeing did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Holding up signs saying “resume the search” and “re-establish an international investigation team”, Jiang Hui, a spokesperson for the bereaved families, said Malaysia Airlines left them with no choice but to go to court to seek answers.

“‘We are not responsible anymore’ is their attitude,” said Jiang, whose mother was on board.

There was a heavy police presence outside Chaoyang District People’s Court in Beijing before the hearing, with reporters cordoned off and unable to interact with the family members.

Some of the relatives, who spoke to reporters after the hearing, said they wanted the resumption of search efforts and for Malaysia Airlines to directly communicate with them as well as to provide them with psychological counselling.

Many said these demands were more important than the monetary compensation.

“My mother died last year and she brought up my son. Until the very end I hid from her what really happened to him,” said Beijing resident Bao Lanfang, 71, who lost her son and daughter-in-law on board. She said her husband had recently died after suffering from severe depression because of the incident.

In March, another group of relatives urged the Malaysian government to allow U.S. seabed exploration firm Ocean Infinity to mount a new search for the missing plane.

(Reporting by Laurie Chen; editing by Miral Fahmy)