Edward Lawrence, a journalist with the BBC, was arrested by police in Shanghai on Sunday evening at the site of the protests, according to the BBC and as captured in what appears to be mobile phone footage of the arrest.
While he has since been released, a BBC spokesman has expressed deep concern about his treatment, saying he has been “beaten and kicked by police”.
Protests have erupted across China in a rare display of dissent against the ruling Communist Party, fueled by anger over the country’s increasingly costly zero-Covid policy.
Out of thousands of protesters, hundreds have even called for the removal of Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who for nearly three years has overseen a strategy of mass testing, brute force lockdowns, enforced quarantine and digital tracking that has resulted in devastating human death. . and economic costs.
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 the Shanghai protests. He was held for several hours before being released. Upon his arrest, he was beaten and kicked by the police. This happened while he was working as an accredited journalist.”
The statement continued: “It is deeply concerning that one of our journalists has been attacked in this manner while performing his duties. We have not received any official statement or apology from the Chinese authorities, other than a claim by the officials who later released him that they had arrested him for his own good in case he caught Covid from the mob. We do not find this a credible explanation.”
At a regular press briefing on Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian acknowledged Lawrence’s detention but claimed he had not identified himself as a journalist before being led away by police.
“China always welcomes foreign journalists to report in accordance with the law in the country and has provided great assistance,” Zhao said. “At the same time, foreign journalists must comply with Chinese regulations when reporting in China.”
Public protest is extremely rare in China, where the Communist Party has tightened its grip on all aspects of life, launched a massive crackdown on dissent, wiped out much of civil society, and built a high-tech surveillance state.
At least two clips of the arrest have been posted online by a Twitter user who says he witnessed the scene. One clip, filmed from above, shows at least four police officers standing over a handcuffed man whose face is hidden.
In a second clip of a man wearing the same outfit, Lawrence’s face is clearly recognizable as police quickly led him away, then shouted, “Call the consulate now.”
The witness who shared the videos said they saw the journalist “besieged and dragged to the ground by several officers.”
It is 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 a “significant concern”.
“There can be absolutely no excuse for a journalist who only reported on the trial in progress because he was beaten by the police,” British Secretary of State Grant Shapps said.
Lawrence was not the only foreign journalist detained by Chinese police on Sunday. Michael Peuker, China correspondent for Swiss broadcaster RTS, was also briefly detained while reporting live from a protest in Shanghai, RTS said.
“The tension is at its peak here. As proof, I am now surrounded by three police officers, I will be taken to the police station after this live hit,” Peuker said in the broadcast. “I will now leave you alone and go to the police station,” he added.
Peuker announced on Twitter that he was released a little later.