Chinese MH370 relatives file suit in Beijing

March 7, 2016 9:39 am
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A woman takes pictures of balloons with names of the missing Malaysia Airlines ill-fated flight MH370 during a memorial event in Kuala Lumpur on March 6, 2016/AFP
A woman takes pictures of balloons with names of the missing Malaysia Airlines ill-fated flight MH370 during a memorial event in Kuala Lumpur on March 6, 2016/AFP

BEIJING, China, March 7 – Relatives of a dozen Chinese passengers aboard missing flight MH370 began filing suits against Malaysia Airlines at a Beijing court Monday, a day ahead of the second anniversary of its disappearance and a legal deadline to do so.

Overview
  • MH370 flight, with 239 people - including 153 Chinese citizens - on board, vanished en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014, and authorities said it went down in the southern Indian Ocean.
  • A vast Australian-search of 120,000 square kilometres (46,000 square miles) of the southern Indian Ocean seabed has so far failed to locate the wreckage

Packed into a small office at the Beijing Rail Transportation Court, which has been designated to handle MH370 cases, they held manilla folders with litigation papers in their hands.

Several wiped away tears, turning to borrow tissues from neighbours, before depositing their documents with court officials.

The flight, with 239 people — including 153 Chinese citizens — on board, vanished en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014, and authorities said it went down in the southern Indian Ocean.

Under international agreements, families have two years to sue over air accidents.

But many Chinese families were “deeply conflicted” over the decision to go to court, said lawyer Zhang Qihuai, whose Lanpeng firm represents the group who were filing suit on Monday.

Even while suing for the wrongful deaths of their loved ones, many Chinese next of kin consistently express beliefs that the passengers are still alive, perhaps being held at an unknown location, despite a piece of the plane washing up on the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion and other potential debris being found in Mozambique.

“They think that after you’ve accepted compensation, the company can deny any further responsibility and wash its hands of the incident, and that the public will naturally forget about the whole thing,” explained Zhang.

The compensation requested ranged from around five to eight million yuan ($755,000 to $1.23 million) per victim, he said, depending on their age and earnings.

“Originally, many didn’t intend to sue, and instead wanted to continue waiting. But there’s a time limit, so they have no other choice -ā€“ losing the right to sue would be terribly painful.”

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