By Lobsang Tenchoe
DHARAMSALA, August 19: Hundreds of Tibetans and supporters rejoiced as world’s largest Tibetan flag hot air balloon flew high on Aug 17 at the Balloon festival in Barneveld, Netherlands.
Banned in Tibet and deemed a sign of resistance by China, the Tibetan flag was introduced in 1913 by the thirteenth Dalai Lama. Named Tashi Gyaltsen, the Tibetan national flag hot air balloon took part in the international balloon festival and flew shoulder to shoulder with the other balloons creating an impressive sight to the bemused spectators.
The balloon received a grand reception from International Campaign for Tibet, the Tibet Support Group and the Tibetan Community in the Netherlands as it made its appearance at the festival. The pilot was offered traditional Tibetan ceremonial scarves (khatag) by Tibetan monks and representatives of various Tibetan organizations.
“For Tibetans to see the Tibetan flag released over the Dutch landscape gives a very emotional experience and it fills me with pride that I live in a country where I have freedom of expression. The possession of the banned flag in Tibet will lead to prison. I thank the festival organizers for allowing Tibet Balloon to fly and especially the couple, Heaven Crawley and Paul Dopson who have taken the initiative to Tibet Balloon. This unique opportunity will bring the spotlight on Tibet and Tibetans deprived of basic Human rights in Tibet under Chinese regime,” Tsering Jampa, Director of the International Campaign for Tibet said in a report published on savetibet.nl Aug 18.
The Tibet Balloon was made by an English couple, Paul Dopson, 45, and his wife, Heaven Crawley, 44, from Stroud, Gloucestershire. It was first launched at the Sakya Tashi Ling Monastery in Spain on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the Dalai Lama.
According to the official website of Tibetan balloon, Heaven Crawley has worked with refugees for more than 20 years and most recently has been working with young Tibetans in Sikkim, North-East India.
Paul Dopson is a commercial hot air balloon pilot who has flown at multiple high profile international events and generated huge publicity for a range of clients.
Tashi, the Tibet balloon joined 432 other balloons above the skies of France for her first ever free flight on July 26, 2015. Tashi also took part in the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta last year.
The organizers of the events have claimed that they were approached by individuals purporting to be Chinese embassy officials urging a ban on the Tibet balloon. Despite the objections, the organizers have allowed the Tibetan balloon to participate in the international events, much to the joy of Tibetans and Tibet supporters across the world.