The blame game has started but it has started much too early.
For the Chinese media, blame is already clear. It is either Malaysia (if terrorism) or Malaysia Airlines (if aircraft fault) to blame. For the Malaysian Home Minister it is incompetence among his passport control staff. (Note that this is passport control for passengers leaving the country). Malaysia Airlines is also being criticised for not even knowing where and when the aircraft disappeared.
The rush to judgement by the Chinese does make me wonder whether they were expecting something. The recent knife attack by terrorists at Kunming Railway station where 29 died may not be irrelevant. The Chinese media were not pleased then, when the Western media were divided in calling the knife-wielding attackers “dissidents” or “terrorists”. I have the distinct perception – from their response and their allocation of blame – that the Chinese know much more about MH370 than they are letting on.
China does not also seem entirely satisfied with the search efforts for the missing Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 and are stepping up their own efforts to locate it:
Xinhua: China creates search plan for Malaysia Airlines jet
Chief of China’s Maritime Search and Rescue Center He Jianzhong said Monday the country has created a plan for the search and rescue of a missing Malaysia Airlines jet. The search and rescue plan involves four patrol and rescue vessels and two naval warships. The search range of the six ships has also been clarified, said He, who is also vice minister of transport.
Chinese warship Mianyang and a marine police vessel with hull number 3411 have begun searching the sea where the Beijing-bound MH370 flight from Kuala Lumpur might have lost contact, he said. He said that three more patrol and rescue vessels under the command of the transport ministry are expected to arrive in the area on Monday and Tuesday. Their hull numbers are 115, 31 and 101.
Most of the passengers on MH370 were from China and there is an assumption in the Chinese media that a terrorist act must have taken place and there is a growing criticism of Malaysian security arrangements and their speed of response. The Malaysian Home Minister is rattled – see previous post- and is looking for scapegoats. The acting Malaysian Transport Minister does not know very much. For the Chinese media, if it was an aircraft problem then it was clearly the fault of Malaysian Airlines and if it was a terrorist act then it was equally clearly the fault of Malaysian security. (But I think the Chinese are protesting too loudly and much too quickly. They were – perhaps – expecting some kind of an attack).
BBC: A commentary in the Beijing Times notes that Premier Li Keqiang said he was “very worried” over the missing plane and added that his government will continue to be a “strong shield” for people who are overseas.
“When the citizens are out of the country, their dignity is closely linked to the dignity of the country. When the country is strong and prosperous, especially if it respects the citizens and protects them, citizens will feel confident and proud when they are abroad,” it says.
Criticising Malaysia for not responding swiftly during the initial stages of the problem, the Global Times Chinese edition says the incident shows there were “obvious loopholes in security checks” in Malaysia. The daily calls for better security for Chinese holidaymakers.
“The Chinese society is no longer in the era of poverty, life is no longer cheap. We demand safety of food, air, water as well as transportation. So we pay great attention to the safety situation in holiday destinations in other countries which are popular among the Chinese,” it says.
China’s state-run media on Monday lashed out at Malaysia and its national carrier over their handling of the missing passenger jet, calling for a swifter response effort and tightened airport security.
Nearly two-thirds of the 239 people aboard Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370 were from China, and if the loss of the aircraft is confirmed, it would be China’s second-worst air disaster in history.
“The Malaysian side cannot shirk its responsibilities,” the Global Times newspaper, which is close to the ruling Chinese Communist Party, wrote in a scathing editorial. “The initial response from Malaysia was not swift enough.
“There are loopholes in the work of Malaysia Airlines and security authorities,” it said.
“If it is due to a deadly mechanical breakdown or pilot error, then Malaysia Airlines should take the blame. If this is a terrorist attack, then the security check at the Kuala Lumpur airport and on the flight is questionable.”
The China Daily newspaper wrote in an editorial that “terrorism cannot be ruled out”, with Malaysian and international authorities still at a loss to explain how at least two passengers were able to board with stolen Italian and Austrian passports.
“Who were they and why were they using false passports?” the paper asked.
“The fact that some of the passengers on board were travelling with false passports should serve as a reminder to the whole world that security can never be too tight, at airports in particular, since terrorism, the evil of the world, is still trying to stain human civilisation with the blood of innocent lives,” it added.