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Beijing's Lido Hotel a grim backdrop as relatives cling to hope

By Peter Shadbolt, for CNN
updated 10:15 PM EDT, Wed March 19, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Relatives of those onboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 still awaiting news
  • Many express dissatisfaction with the way information on the search has been handled
  • Speculation the plane may have been hijacked has fueled hopes it may still be found
  • Relatives have turned to WeChat to exchange information on the missing plane

(CNN) -- From the flat-screen TV and complimentary water bottles to the bedside console with an array of switches that control your tiny hotel room universe, Chinese hotels have a staggering uniformity.

The Metro Park Lido Hotel in Beijing might be a cut above the average, but as with many hotels in China, it's a variation on a theme.

With its gold and green carpet, faux mahogany fittings and bleak luxury goods stores, it now provides a somber backdrop to the daily briefings on the fate of the missing Malaysian airliner.

As the search dragged into its tenth day, ashen-faced relatives trickled out of Sunday's briefing after they were told they should consider returning home. For many of the 500 relatives in Beijing hanging onto any scrap of news, it was taken as a further sign that hopes are fading.

For some of the relatives, even speculation the plane might have been hijacked is a best case scenario.

READ MORE: Flight 370 hijacking theories: Improbability or best hope?

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"Maybe the plane landed on a small island in the Indian Ocean and all the passengers are there. Maybe they are still alive. Maybe they will be back. It's a 50/50 chance," Steve Wang, whose mother was aboard Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370, told CNN.

He said news the aircraft last made satellite contact at 8.11am -- nearly seven hours after it lost contact with air traffic control -- had provided a glimmer of hope.

"I was not only surprised, but hopeful. I think it is good news. They (possible hijackers) must have had a target where to bring the plane," he said. "I don't want to guess what happened. But if it was a kidnapping, the plane would not just fall into the ocean."

An only son whose father is awaiting news at his home in Beijing, Wang did not want give his mother's full name because many of their relatives still don't know she was on the flight.

Meanwhile, keeping body and soul together in the Lido has been a full-time job.

"I wake up 2 to 3 times a night. But I am trying to get more sleep and eat healthily. I tell myself to stay healthy for my mother so when she returns, I can take care of her."

READ MORE: Malaysia Flight 370: Amid a sea of questions, 28 of the most compelling

Dissatisfaction with the daily briefings boiled over into anger on Sunday when angry relatives accused the Malaysian government of deliberately withholding information on the fate of the airliner.

"Take a look! How many of us (have) already lost patience with you and already lost trust in you," one man shouted at the family briefing Sunday, bringing many of the relatives to their feet. "What we ask for is the truth! Don't hide things from us!"

The timing of briefings, they complain, has not been consistent and they also want to be able to question Malaysian government representatives directly. While the Malaysian ambassador has twice fronted the daily news conference, relatives are dissatisfied with the official response.

Maybe the plane landed on a small island in the Indian Ocean and all the passengers are there.
Steve Wang

"We urge the Malaysian government to report the (search) results immediately," one angry relative demanded. "They have to take responsibility, they definitely have to take responsibility."

Spread out at various hotels in Beijing, the relatives collect at the Lido for the 6pm briefings but most prefer to exchange what little information they have on WeChat. There are now 400 of them communicating via the mobile chat app.

In the absence of any reliable information, the other relatives collecting in the marble halls of the Lido Hotel are all Wang has to cling on to.

"I find strength being around the other families. We try to help each other. When I see someone is struggling, I tell them 'I am in the same position. My mother is on the plane too. We have to stay healthy for them.'"

READ MORE: Lives, not numbers: Snapshots of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 passengers

CNN's Pauline Chiou and Yuli Yang in Beijing contributed to this report

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