By Saul Cooke-Black

A PILOT from Stroud flew a hot-air balloon over Bristol this morning - despite officials claiming to be from the Chinese embassy attempting to ban it.

Heaven Crawley, 44, from Stroud, flew the balloon named Tashi - meaning good fortune in Tibetan - from Ashton Court as part of the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta.

A number of Tibetans came to watch the launch at the festival.

The balloon shows the Tibetan flag but does not display any political text or message.

Nearly 100 feet high, it is possibly the largest Tibetan flag on display in the world.

Figures claiming to be from the Chinese embassy have made three attempts to stop the balloon being flown - in France, Spain and the UK - since it was launched four weeks ago.

An email from a member of the Chinese embassy was sent to organisers of the festival asking for the balloon to be banned in the name of Sino-British relations, the Guardian reported on Tuesday.

It has also been reported that figures from the embassy attempted to stop the balloon's launch from Igualada, in Catalonia, Spain by contacting organisers and then turning up to the site of the launch.

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 which has been turned into something controversial by people from the Chinese Embassy.”

Jane Oakland, chair of the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta organising committee, said: “We understand that a hot air balloon decorated with the Tibetan flag registered to fly at the Fiesta.

“The Bristol International Balloon Fiesta is a family-friendly event and non-political in nature and therefore, if the weather allows, we want all our visitors to enjoy a great ballooning show with as many of our registered balloons as possible flying at the event.”