The crash of a Malaysian Airlines flight over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board, has touched a nerve among many Chinese families whose loved ones were on Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, which disappeared en route from Malaysia to China in March.
Flight MH17 was brought down by a missile on Thursday near Torez, an area controlled by pro-Russia separatists, according to Reuters news agency. The Ukrainian government and the rebels are accusing each other of being responsible for the crash. The Boeing 777 was flying from Amsterdam to the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.
In response to the incident, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said on Friday, “We feel shocked after learning about the crash of the Malaysian airliner MH17 in eastern Ukraine. We offer our deep condolences and sincere sympathy to families of the victims. We hope the cause will be identified soon.”
The ministry later confirmed that a Hong Kong resident was killed in the incident.
Memories are still fresh for those who don't know what happened to their loved ones after airliner MH370 vanished from radar screen a few hours after it left Kuala Lumpur on March 8. The plane, which was travelling with 239 people on board, has yet to be found. The disappearance has sparked perhaps the most extensive international search and rescue effort in aviation history.
No one was believed to have survived the twin plane incidents. There were 154 Chinese on board of MH370. MH17 was carrying mostly Dutch nationals.
Reacting to the second Malaysian airliner tragedy in the span of a few months, the MH370 Family Committee, an online community formed shortly after the incident by Chinese relatives of those on board, posted this on Twitter-like site Sina Weibo:
The latest development of MH17 has also affected us, the MH370 family members. Some are watching live reports while shedding tears nonstop, and we are using Wechat to discuss the incident and keep praying. We hope MH17 family members can stay strong. These constant plane incidents have made us wonder, where is aviation safety? Do we have to keep worrying and go on an emotional roller coasters every time we board a plane?
On Friday, the Family Committee sent out an additional message in English: “To us, it’s still a mystery where our loved ones are. Our torture and fear continue every day.”
Chinese web users offered their condolences and comments about the tragedy on social media.
“LovelySmile Yue” lashed out in anger at Malaysia Airlines:
Malaysian airliner shot down. MH370 still owes the Chinese an answer, and now comes the MH17 crash. Malaysian Airlines, are you trying to tell the world that you will bear all the plane crashes in the world? How helpless are we, may those who deceased rest in peace!
Others, like China's former Education Ministry spokesman Wang Xuming, were sympathetic towards the airliner, which has come under increasing criticism and financial troubles:
Another passenger jet has crashed in Ukraine. While we offer our condolences to the relatives of those on board, the incident also reminds us of the other missing Malaysian airliner. Plane crashes affecting the same country's airliner in a short amount of time. Fate, what kind of fate is this! Therefore, I feel sympathy for Malaysia and Malaysian Airlines and those who have unfortunately lost their lives.
“Nianzihan Magical” from Beijing wrote:
The horror and struggle as [the plane] plunges to the ground are what we can make sense of sitting in front of our television sets. Human beings are like ants, and it was during that moment that we see no difference between first class and economy, passengers all have to face the cruelty together. May the deceased all rest in peace.
Meiyutang, an employee of the nationalistic Global Times newspaper, speculated how the crash will affect Russia's support in China:
According to some analysis from my friends, it's more possible that the Eastern [rebel] forces shot down the plane, but it's more likely an act of negligence rather than a deliberate act. Even if it's a negligent act, [those who are responsible] will be punished; Russia will be more isolated in the future and China's public discourse will be shifting away from supporting Russia when the country conducts its diplomacy.