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“I am convinced they are still alive.” – Relatives of the missing MH370 passengers

by Wu Hong

A shadow shows people hanging a message during the event 'Love U MH370' in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 30 March 2014. epa/Ahmad Yusni

A shadow shows people hanging a message during the event ‘Love U MH370’ in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 30 March 2014. epa/Ahmad Yusni

At 6pm on 09 February 2015, Xie Xiucui from Lianyungang, Jiangsu Province, and her husband, Feng Zhishan are having dinner in their make shift home. They live in a hut on the outskirts of Beijing, surrounded by a huge piece of farmland and sand mining sites. The hut is only lit by one single light bulb and costs them three hundred Yuan (44 Euros) a month. In their view, the rent has become their biggest daily expense.

Xie Xiucui, 45, from China's Jiangsu province, stands outside her rental room in rural Yizhuang of Beijing, China, 09 February 2015. epa/Wu Hong

Xie Xiucui, 45, from China’s Jiangsu province, stands outside her rental room in rural Yizhuang of Beijing, China, 09 February 2015. epa/Wu Hong

“The rice for the millet gruel is picked from the trash in the afternoon, the cabbage picked from the rotten ones thrown out in the next village, only the steamed bread I bought.” Xie Xiucui comments on their food sources for dinner, almost a little happily while helping me fill a small bowl of rice, having politely invited me for dinner. According to her, these almost free food supplies have greatly reduced their daily expenses. The taste of the porridge is musty.

Like so many of China’s 670 million farmers, Xie and Feng, though not well-off, used to live a peaceful life managing their family farmland. But all this changed on 08 March 2014 when their twenty-one year-old son Feng Dong, a construction worker living in Singapore, became one of the passengers of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 that disappeared an hour after taking off in Kuala Lumpur. “The money was borrowed from relatives. We have been here in Beijing for months now in order to find our son. The family farmland has been abandoned.” Feng and other relatives of the passengers of MH370 all buy tickets to fly to Kuala Lumpur on 11 February in order to be closer to their loved ones for the first anniversary of their disappearance.

Feng Zhishan (L), from China's Jiangsu province, selects a lucky day from a traditional Chinese almanac for their flight to Malaysia, in a rental room in rural Yizhuang of Beijing, China, 09 February 2015. epa/Wu Hong

Feng Zhishan (L), from China’s Jiangsu province, selects a lucky day from a traditional Chinese almanac for their flight to Malaysia, in a rental room in rural Yizhuang of Beijing, China, 09 February 2015. epa/Wu Hong

The very day they buy their tickets, the family members all travel together to Sanlitun Beijing Pacific Century, Malaysia Airline’s headquarters to protest. Hours later, I receive a message from the family saying that despite promises, there had not been an answer that day, and that no Malaysia Airlines senior official had come to see them.

To this day, family members of passengers of MH370 travel to the outskirts of Beijing to the Shunyi Malaysia Airline family support center three times a week every Monday, Wednesday and Friday to communicate with Malaysia Airline and government staff, to submit their doubts and protests. They also make periodic protests at the Malaysian embassy. On more than one occasion, scuffles ensued, where many of the protesters fell and ambulances had to be called in. There were repeated calls by the police for the family members to leave this ‘illegal rally’.

Relatives of Chinese passengers of the missing MH370 hold placards protesting Malaysia's declaration of the flight an accident without proof, as they try to reach the Malaysian embassy in Beijing, China, 06 February 2015. epa/Wu Hong

Relatives of Chinese passengers of the missing MH370 hold placards protesting Malaysia’s declaration of the flight an accident without proof, as they try to reach the Malaysian embassy in Beijing, China, 06 February 2015. epa/Wu Hong

Sixty-year-old Beijing native, Dai Shuqin, tells me that her sister’s family of five are all passengers of MH370. Dai Shuqin looks at her sister’s family photograph on the table and says: “I am just an ordinary person, no money, no background, retired, they have no handle on me. I am not afraid. I am convinced that they are still alive!”

Dai Shuqin, 62, displays a picture of missing relatives at home in Beijing, China, 01 March 2015. epa/Wu Hong

Dai Shuqin, 62, displays a picture of missing relatives at home in Beijing, China, 01 March 2015. epa/Wu Hong

Please see here the entire feature package by Wu Hong

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