BBC journalist Ed Lawrence was kicked, beaten and arrested by police whilst reporting on protests in Shanghai on Sunday, the British public broadcaster has said.

Ed Lawrence
BBC journalist Ed Lawrence. Photo: Twitter.

Protests against strict Covid-19 regulations have escalated across China in recent days, after at least 10 were killed when a fire ripped through a locked down building in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi. Frustration with ongoing restrictions has boiled over into mass gatherings, police-protester clashes, disobedience of Covid rules, and rare anti-government chants in key cities and at dozens of university campuses.

“He was held for several hours before being released,” a BBC Press Team statement said of Lawrence’s treatment by Shanghai police on Monday. “During his arrest, he was beaten and kicked by the police. This happened while he was working as an accredited journalist… We have no official explanation or apology from the Chinese authorities, beyond a claim by the offices who later released him that they had arrested him for his own good in case he caught Covid from the crowd.”

The public service broadcaster added that it did not consider the police explanation to be credible.

Footage circulating widely online appeared to show the cameraman being dragged to the ground by several police officers.

In a tweet on Monday, Lawrence said: “I understand at least one local national was arrested after trying to stop the police from beating me. Thanks very much for the kind words and messages of concern.”

Although China’s constitution protects press freedom, the country is the largest jailer of journalists and foreign reporters often face silence and harassment amid widespread censorship, according to NGO Reporters Without Borders.

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Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.