Tibet row halts China U20 football team’s German tour


Tibet row halts China U20 football team's German tour

Image copyright EPA
Image caption A group of spectators unfurled Tibetan flags during last Saturday's game in Mainz

A football tour of Germany by the Chinese U20 team has been suspended because of a political row over Tibet.

The team briefly left the pitch during a game in Mainz last week when Tibetan flags were displayed by spectators.

Three matches planned for the remainder of the year have been halted because fans planned further Tibetan protests.

Tibet is governed as an autonomous region of China. Beijing reacts angrily to any suggestions that the Himalayan territory should be independent.

China and the Tibetans

"We believe this adjournment is essential in order to give us the time needed to discuss the situation calmly and openly and find a reasonable solution," Ronny Zimmermann, Vice-President of the German Football Association (DFB), was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.

He said the DFB and the Chinese Football Association (CFA) "will try to work out a way of relaunching the project again quickly".

However, Mr Zimmerman earlier stressed that Germany "cannot ban the protests, there is the right to freedom of expression here and certain rules apply".

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Chinese players (in red) only agreed to resume the match when Tibetan flags were removed by German police

Meanwhile, the CFA described the situation as "regrettable".

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said earlier this week Beijing was "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".

"I must stress that mutual respect is what the official host should provide their guest, and that respect between any two countries should be mutual," he added.

The postponed games include Saturday's match in Frankfurt.

China sent in thousands of troops to enforce its claim on Tibet in 1950.

Some areas became the Tibetan Autonomous Region and others were incorporated into neighbouring Chinese provinces.

In 1959, after a failed anti-Chinese uprising, the 14th Dalai Lama fled Tibet and set up a government in exile in India.

Most of Tibet's monasteries were destroyed in the 1960s and 1970s during China's Cultural Revolution.

Thousands of Tibetans are believed to have been killed during periods of repression and martial law.

Under international pressure, China eased its grip on Tibet in the 1980s, introducing "Open Door" reforms and boosting investment.

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