Chinese police beat a BBC journalist in Shanghai and briefly arrested him as he covered protests sweeping the country against the government-imposed COVID-19 lockdown.
Ed Lawrence was held at the city’s main protest on Sunday (27/11) for several hours before being released.
“It is very worrying that one of our journalists has been attacked in this way while carrying out his duties,” the BBC said.
China’s government said Lawrence did not produce his press credentials.
He was filming the crowd at the country’s biggest protest in Shanghai on Wulumuqi Middle Road on Sunday. Footage shared widely on social media showed several officers grabbing Lawrence and pinning him to the ground.
Lawrance was beaten and kicked by officers and then taken away in handcuffs.
The BBC described the arrest of its journalist as “extremely concerning”.
In a statement, the British broadcaster said it had received no official explanation or apology from China, “apart from a claim by officials who later released him that they held him for his own good as he was at risk of contracting Covid in the crowd.” .
“We don’t consider this a credible explanation.”
In an interview with journalists on Monday (11/28), the spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China did not mention the police violence and the arrest of an accredited foreign journalist.
“Based on what we learned from the relevant authorities in Shanghai, he did not identify himself as a journalist and did not voluntarily submit his press credentials,” said spokesman Zhao Lijian.
Protests against the Chinese government and its anti-COVID policies have erupted in several cities after a deadly wildfire in western Xinjiang killed 10 people last week.
Many believe residents were unable to escape an apartment tower fire in Urumqi city because of restrictions.
Local authorities disputed the accusations.
Public anger over the tragedy — just the latest in a series of disasters blamed on anti-Covid measures — has turned into street protests in several Chinese cities.
In some of them, demonstrators called for the resignation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, in a clear challenge to the authority of the Communist Party, something unprecedented.
The Chinese government has not acknowledged the protests or formally responded. However, news of the demonstrations quickly spread through Chinese social media, despite heavy censorship.
The UK government condemned Ed Lawrence’s detention by Chinese police, with one minister saying it was “unacceptable” and “worrying”.
“Whatever happens, freedom of the press must be sacrosanct,” Business Secretary Grant Schapps told LBC radio.