China fails to ground Tibet hot air balloon from Europe’s air

Shadowy Chinese officials try to ground festival's Tibet balloon. (Photo courtesy: The Guardian)
Shadowy Chinese officials try to ground festival’s Tibet balloon. (Photo courtesy: The Guardian)

(, Aug06, 2015) – A hot air balloon that stands 100ft high is believed to have soared over both Spain and France and floated across these two countries in the past four weeks despite objections from China which was offended by its Tibetan flag design, reported Aug 4. The balloon was taking part in international hot air balloon festivals and is fully covered with a Tibetan national flag design. And as this balloon prepared to soar over Britain on Aug 6, China again failed to stop it.

The report said organisers of the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta had refused to ban the balloon, which is flying as a symbol of peace and compassion, despite Chinese pressure to cancel its participation in the name of Sino-British relations.

As in Spain and France, in the UK too, an email, purporting to be from the third secretary in the political section of the Chinese embassy, urged the fiesta’s organising committee to give serious consideration to the issue, and stressed China did not want the event to be used as a platform for Tibet separatist activities. The report said the approach followed a similar one to organisers of a balloon festival in France the week before and another one in Spain four weeks ago.

The Tibet balloon – named Tashi, meaning good fortune in Tibetan – was designed in close cooperation with UK Tibetan community representatives and launched in Spain on Jul 11 after a blessing at the Sakya Tashi Ling Buddhist monastery near Barcelona. The balloon carries no text message or other symbols of any kind.

The report cited co-pilots Paul Dopson, 45, and his wife, Heaven Crawley, 44, from Stroud in Gloucestershire, as hoping the balloon will draw attention to Tibetan issues and raise funds for charities working to support the cause of Tibet.

The report noted that since its launch the balloon’s movements had apparently been fastidiously tracked, with intense behind-the-scenes lobbying for it to be grounded.

Dopson has said he and his wife were informed by organisers of the European Balloon Festival in Igualada in Catalonia, Spain, that officials, claiming to be from the Chinese consular offices in Barcelona, had contacted them to communicate their concern “initially by email, then phone, and then (by visiting) the launch site on the mornings of the flights”.

However, the balloon actually did not take off in Spain as it was not registered to fly in that event. Nevertheless it was present in the country at the time and China believed it was due for lift off apparently because another pilot had similar name as Dopson’s.

Last week, the balloon did take part in the Lorraine Mondial air balloons festival in Chambley-Bussières, north-east France. Then report said that afterwards, the event organiser Philippe Buron-Pilatre revealed: “The [Chinese] consul general of Strasbourg twice came to see me to tell me that French-Chinese relations would be damaged.”

In the case of the UK event, Ian Martin, of Flying Enterprises, the hot air balloon operator which is supporting the Tibet balloon, and who is a member of the organising committee of the Bristol fiesta, has said he had received an email from someone claiming to be the third secretary in the political section of the Chinese embassy in London. The man had given his name as Xinkai Dang but used a non-official Chinese embassy email address.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here