The BBC Sunday stated that one of its journalists, Ed Lawrence, was arrested and handcuffed by police while covering ongoing protests in Shanghai, China. Lawrence was covering the thousands of people gathered in the street to mourn the victims of a fire in Xinjiang and to urge the government to end the extremely rigid COVID-19 restrictions.
According to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC), which represents journalists from over 40 countries but is not officially recognized by the Chinese authorities, “[Lawrence] was seen being wrestled to the ground by multiple officers before being led away.” The journalist was allegedly beaten and kicked by Chinese police authorities while in their custody for several hours before being released. Lawrence further shared that at least one Shanghai resident was arrested after trying to stop the police from beating him.
Chinese police authorities claim they arrested Lawrence to prevent him from catching COVID-19. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian Monday disputed the BBC’s statement. Lijian stated that, based on the information provided by the authorities, Lawrence was arrested because he failed to voluntarily show his foreign press ID card. In accordance with Chinese regulations, foreign journalists in China must carry a government-issued ID card which identifies them as approved accredited journalists.
Press freedom has been a major issue in China in recent years. In its most recent annual report on media freedom, the FCCC stated, “[N]inety-nine percent of foreign journalists said that reporting conditions did not meet what they considered to be international standards.”
The BBC has yet to receive a formal explanation or apology from the Chinese authorities.