China arrests BBC journalist covering COVID protests

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Nov 28 2022 10:33 AM | Updated as of Nov 28 2022 04:54 PM

Protesters shout while holding blank white pieces of paper during a protest triggered by a fire in Urumqi that killed 10 people in Beijing in Beijing, China, Nov. 27, 2022. Protests against’s China strict COVID restrictions have erupted in various cities including Beijing and Shanghai, triggered by a tower fire that killed 10 people Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi. The blank pieces of paper are a symbol of protest against censorship and free speech. Mark R. Crisitno, EPA-EFE 
Protesters shout while holding blank white pieces of paper during a protest triggered by a fire in Urumqi that killed 10 people in Beijing in Beijing, China, Nov. 27, 2022. Protests against’s China strict COVID restrictions have erupted in various cities including Beijing and Shanghai, triggered by a tower fire that killed 10 people Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi. The blank pieces of paper are a symbol of protest against censorship and free speech. Mark R. Crisitno, EPA-EFE 

LONDON –– The BBC has said one of its journalists in China was arrested and beaten by police while covering protests on Sunday against the country's zero-COVID policy.

Hundreds of people took to the streets in China's major cities on Sunday in a rare outpouring of public anger against the state. 

"The BBC is extremely concerned about the treatment of our journalist Ed Lawrence, who was arrested and handcuffed while covering the protests in Shanghai," the broadcaster said in a statement.

Lawrence, working in the country as an accredited journalist, was detained for several hours, during which time he was beaten and kicked by police, according to the BBC. He was later released.

Lawrence tweeted on Monday to thank his followers, adding he believed "at least one local national was arrested after trying to stop the police from beating me".

The reporter later returned to the scene of the protest, according to videos he posted to his Twitter page.

"It is very worrying that one of our journalists was attacked in this way whilst carrying out his duties," the BBC said.

"We have had no official explanation or apology from the Chinese authorities, beyond 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 crowd," the statement added.

"We do not consider this a credible explanation."

China's foreign ministry said Monday that Lawrence had not identified himself as a journalist.

"Based on what we learned from relevant Shanghai authorities, he did not identify himself as a journalist and didn't voluntarily present his press credentials," foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said, telling international media to "follow Chinese laws and regulations while in China".

© Agence France-Presse