Edward Lawrence, a BBC journalist, was arrested by police during protests in Shanghai on Sunday night, according to the BBC and what was captured on mobile phone footage of the arrest.
When he was released, a BBC spokesman expressed grave concern about his treatment, saying he had been “beaten and kicked by the police.”
protested exploded across China In a rare show of dissent against the ruling Communist Party, anger has sparked over the country’s increasingly expensive zero-covid policy.
Hundreds of thousands of protesters even called for the removal of Chinese leaders Xi JinpingWho has overseen a strategy of nearly three years of mass testing, brute-force lockdowns, enforced quarantines and digital tracking that has come at a devastating human and economic cost.
Hear protesters in China call for Xi Jinping’s resignation
The BBC statement read in full: “The BBC is deeply concerned about the treatment of our journalist Ed Lawrence, who was arrested and handcuffed while covering protests in Shanghai. He was held for several hours before being released. Police beat and kicked him during the arrest. This happened while he was working as a recognized journalist.”
The statement added, “It is very disturbing that one of our journalists has been attacked in this manner while performing his duties. We have received no official explanation or apology from the Chinese authorities, beyond the claim of officials who later released him that they arrested him for his own good in case he caught Covid from the crowd. We do not find this a credible explanation.”
At a regular press briefing on Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian acknowledged Lawrence’s arrest, but claimed he had not identified himself as a journalist before police took him away.
“China has always welcomed foreign journalists to report in the country according to the law and has provided a lot of support,” Zhao said. “At the same time, foreign journalists must abide by Chinese regulations when reporting in China.”
Public protests are extremely rare in China, where the Communist Party has tightened its grip on all aspects of life, launched a sweeping crackdown on dissent, wiped out much of civil society and created a high-tech surveillance state.
At least two clips of the arrest were posted online by a Twitter user who said they witnessed the scene. A clip from above shows at least four police officers standing over a handcuffed man whose face is obscured.
In a second clip of a man wearing the same clothing, Lawrence’s face is clearly identifiable, as the police quickly move him away and then shout, “Call the consulate now.”
Witnesses who shared the videos said they saw the journalist being “blocked by several policemen and dragged to the ground”.
It’s unclear what happened leading up to Lawrence’s arrest. The video available online begins with his arrest and does not show what happened before.
In an interview with Sky News on Monday, the UK government called Lawrence’s arrest “of considerable concern”.
UK Business Secretary Grant Shapps said, “There can be no excuse for a journalist to be beaten by the police simply for covering it.”
Lawrence was not the only foreign journalist detained by Chinese police on Sunday. Swiss broadcaster RTS’ China correspondent Michael Peuker was also briefly detained while reporting live from a protest in Shanghai, RTS said.
“The tension here is high. As evidence, I am now surrounded by three police officers, I will be taken to the police station after this live injury,” Peuker said on air. “I will leave you now to go to the police station,” he added.
Peuker said on Twitter that he was released a short time later.