BEIJING – Not only has Mr Zhang Yongli been handcuffed by the police, but also he was once locked up for 18 hours in his quest to get to the bottom of one of aviation’s biggest mysteries, he claimed.
His daughter Zhang Qi was one of the 239 people on board Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Flight MH370 when it vanished two years ago en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
She was 31 years old, and was working for a steel company in a department that looked at making investments overseas.
“It’s not unreasonable for me to demand answers from MAS but I was forcibly removed from its premises and the police were very rough with me and arrested me,” said Mr Zhang, 65.
He said the incident happened last October when he went to the airline’s office to seek financial help for the family members of passengers.
“We are gradually seeing our savings depleted. The cost of phone bills, our travelling expenses to Malaysia and public transport costs to attend meetings with MAS and various Malaysian agencies have added up over the past two years,” the retiree told The Sunday Times.
But without fresh clues since the plane’s barnacle-encrusted wing flap washed up on a French island in the Indian Ocean last July, the hunt for the jetliner is likely to end by June, when four ships finish combing the seas off Western Australia, believed to be the area of the likely impact point.
While the search has so far proved futile, a Chinese ship with high-definition sonar was the latest reinforcement sent there last month to help scan the over 30,000 sq km yet to be searched – an area bigger than Belgium. Investigators are also nowhere closer to ascertaining what happened inside the plane. This lack of progress is “unacceptable” to Mr Zhang, who is clinging on to the hope that his daughter is still alive. He is also sceptical about whether the search area had been accurately determined.
“But if MAS wants to claim that the plane crashed in that part of the ocean, then how can it just stop the search without finding anything? How is this being responsible to family members?” he said.
He added that plans to sue MAS are under way, with an American law firm already engaged. “If we settle, then we have to give up all rights in assigning blame for what has happened,” he said. “This is something I cannot do. It’s always been about bringing the person home, never the money.”
This article was first published on March 6, 2016.
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