Malaysia drew a fresh round of scathing criticism from China today over conflicting information on missing flight MH370, with state media and social media users voicing increasing scepticism as the search enters its 10th day.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak on Saturday announced that the Malaysia Airlines flight's disappearance may have been "deliberate" and that the aeroplane flew for several hours after leaving its intended flight path.
In an editorial, the China Daily newspaper questioned why the announcement from Kuala Lumpur 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," it said.
"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 today 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 said.
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" because of 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," Yao said.
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."
The plane's disappearance remained the most hotly debated topic on China's popular social networks, with many users of Sina Weibo, a Chinese equivalent of Twitter, echoing 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 this 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 any time 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."
Today, 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 rubbish. China has forwarded a week's worth of news," read the latest viral message. – AFP, March 17, 2014.