By Tenzin Dharpo
Chinese spectators trying to forcefully snatch away the Tibetan flag from a Tibetan activist on Nov. 18, 2017 in Mainz. phayul photo, courtesy a source.
DHARAMSHALA, Nov. 21: “Despite the continuing day to day suffering endured by my country, the moment when the Chinese team walked out, we felt as though we snatched a bit of justice and victory for truth, Tibet and our countrymen,” Lhanzey Karma, one of the Tibetan activists who raised the Tibetan flag at a football game, told Phayul.
On Saturday, a friendly football match between the U-20 Chinese team and home team TSV Schott Mainz, a fourth tier German team turned political when Chinese spectators and a few coaching staff of the team resorted to physical and forceful objection against a few Tibetans and pro-Tibet German activists who raised the Tibetan national flag during the game.
The activists said that they did not shout any slogans or any derogatory remarks against the Chinese team but merely raised the Tibetan flag. “A Chinese spectator forcefully tried to snatch away the flag. The authorities and organizers intervened when a coaching staff from the Chinese team came and said what we were doing was wrong. I became very emotional and told them that this is not China or Tibet where my countrymen suffer brutally for raising the banned flag,” Lhanzey, the Tibetan women seen crying in video clips broadcasted by German media, said.
The Chinese team coached by former Manchester City defender Sun Jihai then walked out of the stadium causing a 25-minute delay. The organizers reassured the Tibetan and German activists that they would not be intimidated into removing the flags and also placed security personnel to ward of Chinese spectators present in the stadium.
“We were really overwhelmed by the support of the German people in general and those organizers who reassured us that in a free country like Germany, everyone has human rights including the right to express,” Tenzin Thabgye said.
Ronny Zimmerman, vice president of the German Football Association (DFB), told German press, "We cannot ban the protests, there is the right to freedom of expression here and certain rules apply. As a guest, you should be able to handle it calmly and stand above such actions."
Chinese government was quick to suggest that the incident was an episode of separatist Tibetans violating Chinese sovereignty. "We are firmly opposed to any country or any individual offering support to separatist, anti-China and terrorist activities or activities defending Tibet independence, in any form or under any pretext," said China's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Lu Kang, during a press briefing.
“We were just six people, four Tibetans (Lobsang Tsering and Yeshi Lhamo besides Lhanzey and Thabgye) and two Germans (Mike and Geroff) activists from Tibet Initiative, a pro-Tibet group but the flag we were carrying really angered the Chinese there who do not know the history or the ongoing atrocities in Tibet. Hence it is important that Tibetans take any platform available to peacefully protest and create awareness on the issue,” Lhanzey added.
The Chinese team is scheduled to play a string of friendly games in Germany in a bid to garner exposure and experience for their squad in the coming weeks. Three teams in Germany’s fourth-tier Regionalliga Suedwest league have refused to play with the Chinese team after their fans protested, but the 16 other clubs will each be paid 15,000 euros for the matches, German media reported.
The Chinese team lost the match 3-0.