Conflicts & War

BBC journalist arrested during Covid protests in China

(Update 1: re-writes headline, lede, adds details about arrest)

Beijing, Nov 28 (EFE).- A BBC journalist was arrested in Shanghai on Sunday after being “beaten and kicked” by Chinese police officers during a wave of protests across the country against the government’s “Zero-Covid” policy.

Cameraman Ed Lawrence was covering the demonstrations in the Chinese city on Sunday when he was “attacked” by local police officers, the British national broadcaster said Monday.

“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 spokesperson said in a statement.

“He was held for several hours before being released. During his arrest, he was beaten and kicked by the police. This happened while he was working as an accredited journalist,” the spokesperson added.

Footage on social media on Sunday showed a man identified as Lawrence by other accredited journalists in China, being handcuffed by the police.

In its statement, the BBC said that it had not received an explanation for the detention.

“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 BBC said.

Protests have erupted in recent days in major cities across China, including Shanghai, Beijing, Nanjing and Wuhan, against restrictions imposed by the government under its “Zero Covid’ strategy.

Many of the mobilizations began with vigils and tributes for the ten people who died on Thursday in a fire in a building apparently under lockdown in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi.

According to videos and testimonies circulating on social media, the signs of indignation that flooded the heavily censored Chinese internet on Friday turned into vigils in memory of the victims, who allegedly were under home confinement for the last 100 days.

While the official press fails to report these incidents, some videos showed hundreds of people marching through the streets of different cities holding blank sheets of paper to show their opposition to censorship.

The footage showed groups of protesters singing the national anthem with its lyric “Rise up, those who refuse to be slaves,” or “The Internationale,” while other groups shouted slogans calling for freedom, and against compulsory mass PCR tests and QR codes for contact tracing and getting access to different areas.

In some of the cities, groups of people also chanted slogans against the Communist Party and President Xi Jinping, marking a rare public show of disapproval about the country’s government, its leader or its policies.

China registered a record number of new Covid-19 infections for the fifth straight day on Sunday, with 40,347 cases, of which 36,525 – more than 90 percent of the total -, are asymptomatic according to the National Health Commission.

These numbers, while low by international standards, are a matter of concern to the Chinese authorities, and have resulted in strict restrictions imposed in several areas of the capital.

Similar measures have been adopted in the past in other parts of the country, such as Urumqi in the northwest, and the eastern megalopolis of Shanghai, parts of which were under strict lockdown for more than two months earlier this year. EFE


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