This is the moment a BBC journalist shouts ‘call the consulate now’ to a friend as he is dragged away by police in Shanghai.
Edward Lawrence, a camera operator for the BBC’s China Bureau, was beaten and kicked by officers while covering the anti-government demonstration last night.
Protesters have taken to the streets in at least seven cities across China, demanding an end to President Xi Jinping’s rule and his strict Covid restrictions.
Shocking footage from Shanghai – the epicentre of the demonstrations – shows Mr Lawrence on the ground as officers aggressively pull his arms behind his back.
He’s then bundled away by the masked cops, but he manages to shout in desperation to alert the British Consulate in the city.
The BBC issued a statement saying they were ‘extremely concerned’ about Mr Lawrence’s treatment, but China has now claimed he did not identify himself as a journalist.
‘He was held for several hours before being released,’ a BBC spokesperson said. ‘During his arrest, he was beaten and kicked by the police. This happened while he was working as an accredited journalist.’
They added: ‘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.’
Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian hit back at the BBC’s statement, claiming ‘it’s not true’.
He said: ‘According to authorities in Shanghai the journalist in question did not reveal his journalist identity at the time, he did not voluntarily show his foreign press card.
‘When the incident happened, law enforcement personnel persuaded people at the site to leave, and when certain people did not cooperate they were taken away from the scene.’
He added: ‘China has always welcomed foreign journalists to conduct reporting activities according to law and regulations and has provided a great deal of assistance.
‘Meanwhile, foreign journalists should consciously abide by Chinese law and regulations when conducting reporting activities in China.’
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly called Mr Lawrence’s arrest ‘deeply disturbing’.
He said: ‘Media freedom and freedom to protest must be respected. No country is exempt.’
China is the only major country still fighting the virus with strict restrictions, which includes repeated testing and people being barred from leaving their homes for as long as 100 days.
The national anger was ignited by a devastating fire in the northern city of Urumqi on Thursday, which killed at least 10 people.
It is feared residents couldn’t escape from a tower block engulfed in flames because of the restrictions.
‘The Urumqi fire got everyone in the country upset,’ said Sean Li, a resident in Beijing.
People were heard shouting slogans like ‘Xi Jinping, step down’ and ‘Communist party, step down’.
Some were seen holding up blank sheets of paper – a new symbol of defiance Chinese people are using to avoid censorship laws and being arrested.
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