A BBC journalist covering historic protests against President Xi Jinping‘s lockdown rules in China was arrested and beaten by police officers, with Chinese officials later making the bizarre claim that he was detained for his ‘own good’ in case he caught Covid from the crowd.
Shocking footage from the anti-government protests in Shanghai shows Edward Lawrence, a camera operator for the BBC’s China Bureau, being dragged away by Xi’s officers as he screams ‘call the consulate now’ to a friend.
Mr Lawrence was beaten and kicked by the police officers and held in custody for ‘several hours’ before being released, as Chinese officials sought to crack down on the media and protesters in the city.
The British journalist said today that at least one local was arrested after they tried to stop the police from beating him during his arrest.
Shanghai police officers tried to dismiss the arrest as being for Mr Lawrence’s ‘own good’, claiming that he was arrested ‘in case he caught Covid from the crowd’. The BBC dismissed the farfetched explanation as implausible.
The UK’s Business Secretary Grant Shapps today denounced the officers’ actions as ‘unacceptable’ and ‘concerning’. He told LBC radio: ‘Whatever else happens, freedom of the press should be sacrosanct.’
Dr Alan Mendoza, executive director of the human rights group the Henry Jackson Society in London, told the Mail: ‘This latest outrage shows the true face of the Chinese Communist Party’s regime in attacking all the values the West hold dear.
‘Media freedom is essential to our system and the Chinese crackdown against it needs the strongest of refutations from the UK Prime Minister. This is no time for him to go wobbly.’
China is facing its largest anti-government demonstrations since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, with protests erupting in at least seven cities over the country’s strict zero-Covid rules.
The catalyst for the protests was an apartment fire last week in the western city of Urumqi in which ten people died. Many speculated that Covid curbs in the city, parts of which had been under lockdown for 100 days, had hindered rescue and escape, which city officials denied.
The largest of the demonstrations has taken place in Shanghai – home to 26million residents – with many also boldly demanding that President Xi resign.
China’s foreign ministry today insisted the government’s ‘fight against Covid-19 will be successful’.