China's ambassador in Kuala Lumpur said Tuesday that the country has completed background checks on all of its nationals who were aboard Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 and found no links to terrorism.
Ambassador Huang Huikang said that background checks on the 154 Chinese passengers aboard flight MH370 did not uncover any evidence suggesting they were involved in an act of terrorism, the Associated Press reports. The announcement came after speculation that Uighur Muslim separatists from far western China might have been involved in the plane's disappearance on March 8. Malaysian authorities are investigating the backgrounds of the pilots and ground crew and have asked intelligence agencies from countries with passengers on the plane to conduct background checks on its citizens.
More than a week after the plane's mysterious disappearance, the search area has expanded to encompass an area almost the size of theUnited States.
On Tuesday, furious Chinese families threatened to go on a hunger strike until the Malaysian government releases more information about the plane's disappearance. Ten days after the plane went missing, families vented their frustration and China criticized Malaysia and Malaysian Airlines for not providing relatives of Chines passengers with more definitive information. "China has all along demanded that the Malaysian side and Malaysia Airlines earnestly respond to the reasonable requests of the Chinese families," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said, according to Reuters.
The search for the plane has expanded across a massive area of the Indian Ocean, which has some of the deepest waters on Earth. The AP reports that Australian ships alone are searching 600,000 square kilometers (232,000 square miles) of the ocean, and U.S. and Indonesian planes and ships are also searching for the missing plane.
A report in the New York Times suggested that the missing Boeing 777 made its first off-course turn to the west after a heading change was entered into the aircraft's flight computer, a move that requires advanced knowledge of the plane's flight systems.