BEIJING – Many Chinese families of passengers on the missing Malaysian airliner demanded Friday that Malaysian officials retract their statement that all aboard died, saying that without hard evidence they don't want to start compensation claims.
Malaysia's government formally declared still-missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 an accident on Thursday and said all those on board were presumed dead, paving the way for claims to begin. Many of the victims' families in China — where most of the passengers were from — still hold onto hope that their loved ones are alive.
"We don't accept it. As a matter of fact, we are demanding the statement to be retracted," Zhang Qian, whose husband was on the plane, said on Friday.
The relatives' continued refusal to accept the authorities' conclusion is understandable because they are going through "ambiguous loss," where there has been no body or wreckage to confirm death, said Theresa Rando, a clinical psychologist in Warwick, Rhodes Island, who has worked extensively in grief counseling.
"For any family member to make the move to presume death in the absence of confirmation is a huge step," Rando explained in an email. "They need to have eliminated other possibilities; to do otherwise would be tantamount to prematurely abandoning their loved one."
Earlier this week, in anticipation of the Malaysian statement, 110 members of a group 115 relatives of passengers voted during a mobile phone group chat to demand that Malaysia refrain from making any announcement.
Jiang Hui, mother a passenger aboard the flight, said the new announcement was based on no new facts.
"We not only demand the Malaysian government retract the statement, but also issue an apology," Jiang said. "That's the wish of the majority of family members."
Relatives were unmoved by the argument that the declaration paves the way for compensation claims.
"I feel like I am giving it all up if we start talking about compensation," Zhang said. "We don't need compensation, and we would be more than glad not to ask for a dime if my husband comes back to me."
Malaysia's civil aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said Thursday that the search for the jet "remains a priority." The Boeing 777 disappeared on March 8, 2014, while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.