BBC accuses Chinese police of ‘beating and kicking’ journalist covering Covid protests

The BBC has accused Chinese police of assaulting one of its journalists while they were covering protests against the stringent Covid-19 measures in China.

The broadcaster said on Monday that it was “concerned” over the arrest and treatment of camera operator Edward Lawrence, who it said was “beaten and kicked” in Shanghai on Sunday night.

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

“He was held for several hours before being released. During his arrest he was beaten and kicked by police.

“This happened while he was working as an accredited journalist.

“It is very worrying that one of our journalists was attacked in this way whist carrying out his duties.”

Mr Lawrence, a senior journalist and camera operator for the BBC’s China bureau, was seen being dragged by the police in videos on social media while he was live tweeting from the site.

In one video, he could be heard saying: “Call the consulate now!”

He was released after a few hours but the broadcaster claimed it had received no official explanation or apology from Chinese authorities, adding officials said Mr Lawrence was arrested “for his own good” in case he caught Covid from the crowd.

“We do not consider this a credible explanation,” the BBC said.

Mr Lawrence tweeted that Swiss journalist Michael Peuker was arrested along with one local, who Mr Lawrence said had tried to stop the police from beating him.

He has been in contact with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) over the matter.

Since Friday, people have been staging protests across China, where street demonstrations are extremely rare, over the country’s draconian Covid measures.

While anger was brewing in the country for months, the protests were sparked after a fire in an apartment block in the city of Urumqi on Thursday which killed at least 10 people.

Meanwhile, British business minister Grant Shapps said there was “no excuse” for media covering protests to be beaten by the police.

“There can be absolutely no excuse whatsoever for journalists who are simply covering the protests going on, for being beaten by the police. I know that’s a considerable concern,” Mr Shapps told Sky News.

China’s foreign ministry responded to the incident by saying that Mr Lawrence did not identify himself as a journalist.

Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said they had noted the BBC statement about the incident, but “it did not reflect” what had happened.