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Chinese Officials Try to Ground Balloon With Tibetan Flag, but Fail

With the Tibetan flag across it, the balloon called Tashi makes an inspiring sight as it floats in the air. (Image: Tibet Hot Air Balloon Facebook page)
With the Tibetan flag across it, the balloon called Tashi makes an inspiring sight as it floats in the air. (Image: Tibet Hot Air Balloon Facebook page)

It wasn’t surprising to hear how Chinese officials based in Europe have been trying to ground an air balloon with the Tibetan flag on it.

The good news is, these officials haven’t had much luck.

The Communist Party in China is well known to be sensitive about a lot of things, and it’s certainly hypersensitive about Tibet.

The balloon in question is called Tashi—which is Tibetan for good fortune—and it has only been flying for four weeks. The two main people behind it are a husband and wife team: Heaven Crawley and Paul Dopson. Both have a passion for hot air balloons and the challenges facing the Tibetan people, says the Tibet Balloon website.

As you can see by the images above and below, the balloon looks pretty awesome.

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The balloon Tashi participating at a recent festival. (Image: Tibet Hot Air Balloon Facebook page)

The couple and Tashi are attending their third festival this week in Bristol, the U.K. It flew at a festival in France last week, and attended another one in Spain four weeks ago, reported The Guardian.

On each occasion, the paper said Chinese officials tried to intimidate festival organizers to not allow the balloon to be a part of those events.

At the festival in Spain, individuals believed to be from the Chinese consular offices in Barcelona had contacted organizers to communicate their concern “initially by email, then phone, and then they visited the launch site on the mornings of the flights,” Dopson told The Guardian.

A similar thing happened in France not long after.

Concerning that, the French event organizer, Philippe Buron-Pilatre, said: “The [Chinese] consul general of Strasbourg twice came to see me to tell me that French-Chinese relations would be damaged.”

Nobody, I’m glad to say, has bowed to the red Chinese pressure.

Also on the upside, the Chinese officials in their actions have managed to draw further attention to the balloon, and more sympathy to its message. Please see the front page of The Guardian as a case in point:

Front page of an edition of The Guardian newspaper this week. (Image: Courtesy of www.tibetballoon.org.uk)

Front page of an edition of ‘The Guardian’ newspaper this week. (Image: Courtesy of www.tibetballoon.org.uk)

Given that Crawley and Dopson are aware of what is occurring in Tibet, they’re probably not surprised at the tactics employed against them to try and keep their balloon grounded.

Let’s hope they keep flying for some time yet, spreading their message far and wide as expressed in part with these words from a Web page explaining the story behind the balloon: “Can you imagine not being allowed to fly the flag of your country? Worse still, being arrested, imprisoned, and even tortured for doing so? For the people of Tibet, this is an everyday reality designed to suppress their identity as Tibetans, and to force them conform to Chinese rule.”

See some “surreal” stop motion footage of Tashi being set up and taking off below:

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