Balloon showing Tibetan flag flown at UK festival

A hot air balloon that has attracted controversy during the summer recently made its scheduled flight at Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, despite reported objections from Chinese embassy officials.

The balloon is named ‘Tashi’, meaning ‘good fortune’ in Tibetan, and bears an illustration of the Tibetan flag. Indeed, when the balloon is fully inflated, the flag displays reaches a height of 100 ft., making this most likely the world’s tallest representation of the Tibetan flag.

The Guardian, two days before the flight in early August, reported that officials claiming to be from the Chinese embassy had emailed the Bristol festival organisers asking them to ban the flight. Officials at the Bristol festival refused, however, and the flight went ahead, piloted by Heaven Crawley and her husband Paul, from Stroud in Gloucestershire.

Figures from the Tibetan community attended the balloon’s launch at the Bristol festival, where Mrs. Crawley said:

“The objective of the flight is to raise awareness about the plight of the Tibetan people… It is an act of peace and compassion.”

However, Jane Oakland, chair of the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, merely noted that a balloon decorated with the Tibetan flag had appeared at the festival. This, she stressed, is entirely nonpolitical in nature.

Tashi has been causing something of a stir at other festivals. Heaven Crawley reports that, at a balloon festival in Spain, Chinese officials turned up at the launch site in an attempt to block the flight. Even so, the balloon has continued its European tour and display the Tibetan flag.

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