Chinese slam Malaysia for 'contradictory' info on missing Malaysia Airlines plane

BEIJING (AFP) - Malaysia drew more scathing criticism from China on Monday over conflicting information on missing jet MH370, with state media and social media users voicing increasing scepticism as the search enters its 10th day.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on Saturday announced that the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines flight may have been "deliberate" and that the plane flew for several hours after leaving its intended flight path.

In an editorial, the China Daily newspaper questioned why the announcement came more than a week after the flight vanished and wondered whether Malaysia was sharing all of the information it had gathered.

"The contradictory and piecemeal information Malaysia Airlines and its government have provided has made search efforts difficult and the entire incident even more mysterious," the newspaper wrote.

"What else is known that has not been shared with the world?" Two-thirds of the passengers on board the flight were Chinese, and Beijing has been critical of Malaysia's sharing of information - a concern reiterated on Monday as fears mounted that the plane might have been hijacked.

"It is of the utmost importance that any loopholes that might have been exploited by hijackers or terrorists be identified as soon as possible because we need counter-measures to plug them," the China Daily wrote.

Dr Yao Shujie, the head of the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies at the University of Nottingham, wrote in an op-ed in China's state-run Global Times newspaper that Malaysia "has lost authority and credibility" due to its chaotic response.

"The lack of national strength and experience in dealing with incidents has left the Malaysian government helpless and exhausted by denying all kinds of rumours," he wrote.

He added: "If the search continues to be fruitless even following the new information, Malaysia would be better off handing over its command in the international rescue operation."

China's foreign ministry took a more measured tone, with spokesman Hong Lei telling Monday's regular briefing that the search "is faced with even more difficulties" in light of the new information.

"We hope the Malaysian side will better coordinate all the search efforts and provide comprehensive and accurate information to all sides, expand the search and step up search efforts," he said.

He added that Beijing "will not reduce our search forces, but we will redirect the forces" as the situation changes.

The plane's disappearance remained the most hotly debated topic on China's popular social networks. Many users of Sina Weibo, a Chinese equivalent of Twitter, echoed concerns over the Malaysian government's release of information.

"Why is it only now that they've confirmed it may have been hijacked?" one Sina Weibo user wrote on Monday morning in response to the latest revelations by Kuala Lumpur.

"Malaysia, what else are you hiding?" Another posted: "I'm really getting more and more disappointed in Malaysia and their unreliable government. I'm not planning on travelling there anytime in the future."

Last week, one of the most widely forwarded messages was a posting that read: "Vietnam keeps discovering. Malaysia Airlines keeps denying. China keeps sending rescue teams." On Monday the meme had taken a new twist.

"Malaysia has been telling a week's worth of lies. Vietnam has fished out a week's worth of trash. China has forwarded a week's worth of news," read the latest viral message.