More than 100 relatives of the 154 missing Chinese passengers on board Malaysia Airlines flight 370 met in Beijing last week seeking news of the hunt for the airliner. Some of them briefly blocked a conference room exit, preventing airline staff from leaving when the meeting ended.
The relatives have been filtering back to the capital for two weeks since they were persuaded to leave a family-assistance centre set up at the Lido Hotel in Chaoyang district.
Friday's meeting was attended by a working group set up to consult with relatives. But the Malaysia Airlines employees were prevented from leaving until uniformed and plain-clothes police arrived and the relatives scattered.
Some relatives from outside Beijing said they had returned to the capital because communications with Malaysia Airlines had ceased after they were persuaded to leave the assistance centre earlier this month or sent home by local government officials.
The group met in Shunyi , near Beijing Capital International Airport, to reiterate their demand that airline staff provide raw satellite data and more information about the missing Boeing 777 plane, which vanished from civilian radar an hour into a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8.Satellite data indicate it probably crashed in the southern Indian Ocean but an international air and sea search has turned up nothing.
Many family members remained in the city after Friday's meeting, while others returned to their homes in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei vowing to reconvene in the capital tomorrow.
"I couldn't eat or sleep [because] I hadn't heard a word from Malaysia Airlines after I went home," said Gao Jianjun from Inner Mongolia . "I was helpless."
Gao said his only source of information was an unofficial family-support group set up on Wechat, a social network, where relatives can share news updates related to the flight.
When word spread that a relatives' aid group had decided to draft an open letter to Malaysia Airlines requesting a substantive update on MH370, people said they would return to Beijing to deliver the letter together.
They arrived by train or plane from Shandong , Hebei and Henan .
The airline representatives said they would convey the working group's letter to headquarters and return with an answer in writing tomorrow.
Meanwhile, some of the relatives allege that they have been contacted by a Shanghai law firm purporting to represent the Malaysian carrier to discuss compensation.
"I'm so upset to hear the term 'compensation'. It's like suggesting my son is dead. I will not let him go without seeing any evidence," said Wen Wancheng from Shandong .
Song Jun, an employee of Malaysia Airlines, said it had offered a preliminary US$50,000 payment to help families cope with financial difficulties.
Jiang Hui, a spokesman for the relatives' aid group, said: "We want detailed answers. And we need them on a deadline."
Relatives said they were angered by the lack of hotels and dining facilities in the vicinity of the venue for Friday's meeting, which lasted several hours.
"It seems that they chose the office [location] on purpose to keep us away, because it is so remote," Wen said.
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as Families of missing meet in Beijing for news on hunt