Press Releases

    20 May 2004

    China’s First Astronaut Returns United Nations Flags to the Secretary-General

    VIENNA, 20 May (UN Information Service) -- In a ceremony held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, China’s first astronaut Yang Liwei presented United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan with two flags of the world body that he had taken with him on board the country’s first manned spaceflight.

    Following a formal request by China to the Secretary-General in July 2003, the flags were provided for flight on the space mission as a symbol of China’s firm commitment to use outer space for peaceful purposes and for the betterment of all humankind.

    The flags were presented to the Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations in Vienna, Ambassador Zhang Yan, by the Director-General of the United Nations Office at Vienna, Antonio Maria Costa, on behalf of the Secretary-General, at a formal ceremony held on 4 September 2003 at the Vienna International Centre.

    The large flag (120 by 180 cm) was stowed aboard the Shen Zhou V spacecraft prior to launch and the small flag (10 x 15 cm) was displayed on camera by Colonel Yang while in orbit.

    Congratulating China on its first successful manned spaceflight, the Secretary-General told a small delegation, which included Beijing's Ambassador to the United Nations, Wang Guangya, and Colonel Yang, that it was a "great achievement" watched by all the Chinese people and people around the world.

    "Space travel always excites the imagination," the Secretary-General said upon receiving the UN flags from Colonel Yang. "We in this organization have taken a very keen interest in space, particularly in the peaceful uses of outer space.”

    The flags will be placed on display at the United Nations space exhibit in the United Nations Office at Vienna, home to the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs.

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    The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA) implements the decisions of the General Assembly and of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and its two Subcommittees, the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee and the Legal Subcommittee. The Office is responsible for promoting international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, and assisting developing countries in using space science and technology. Located in Vienna, Austria, OOSA maintains a website at