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BBC reporter Edward Lawrence arrested in China

Edward Lawrence wanted to report on the Corona protests in Shanghai for the British BBC. / BBC reporter Edward Lawrence arrested in China

There, the police took him into custody for hours, according to the broadcaster. / BBC reporter Edward Lawrence arrested in China

A BBC reporter was arrested on the fringes of anti-government demonstrations in Shanghai and says he was mistreated by the Chinese police.
Edward Lawrence, who works in China as an accredited journalist, was held for several hours while being punched and kicked by police, according to the BBC. He was later released accordingly. It is “very worrying that one of our journalists has been attacked in this way while doing his job,” the statement said.

The channel has not yet received any official explanation or apology from the Chinese authorities, apart from the officials’ claim that they arrested the journalist “for his own good if he was attacked by the crowd”. “We don’t think that’s a credible explanation,” the BBC said.

The reporter reported on Twitter how he approached the protests in the metropolis. There he describes a massive police presence.

Authorities delete messages about protests in online networks

The state authorities, however, deleted all reports of the protests in Chinese online networks. On the Twitter-like platform Weibo, search terms related to central locations of the protests such as Liangma River in Beijing and Urumqi Road in Shanghai have been deleted. Videos showing students at protests and rallies in other cities have also disappeared from the WeChat online service. They were replaced with notices that the content had been flagged for “non-compliant or sensitive content.”

Anger at China’s strict zero-Covid policy erupted in nationwide protests on Sunday. The trigger was a house fire in Urumqi in northwest China’s Xinjiang region that killed ten people last Thursday. The protests also included calls for President Xi Jinping to resign.

The protesters blamed the strict corona measures for the slow rescue of the residents. They complained that the cars that had been parked in the narrow alley in front of the house for weeks due to the curfews were blocking access for the emergency services.

China is the last major economy to have a very strict zero-Covid policy. Even small corona outbreaks can lead to lockdowns, even entire cities and business closures, which puts a massive strain on the economy and people’s everyday lives.

Protests against zero covid policy in China! Numerous arrests

The rigid zero-Covid policy has led to the largest protests in China in decades. The police are cracking down and are said to have arrested a British journalist.

A BBC reporter covering anti-government demonstrations in Shanghai has been arrested and says he was ill-treated by Chinese police. “The BBC is extremely concerned at the treatment of our journalist Ed Lawrence, who was arrested and handcuffed while covering the Shanghai protests,” said a spokesman for the British broadcaster.

Lawrence was punched and kicked by police officers during the arrest, even though he was accredited as a journalist. He was only released hours later.

There has been no official explanation or apology for the incident from the Chinese authorities, the spokesman said. The fact that the police claimed upon release that Lawrence had only been taken into custody to protect him from a corona infection in the crowd is “not a credible explanation”. Photos and videos were posted online of a man being taken away by police shouting for someone to call the consulate immediately.

On his Twitter account, Lawrence had shortly before described impressions of the protests, which are extremely unusual in China and in which he estimates that several hundred people took part.

Numerous arrests – little information

Scores of people have been arrested in the largest wave of protests in China in decades. The weekend demonstrations lasted in many cities until Monday night. The people’s displeasure is directed against the strict measures of the Chinese zero-Covid policy such as repeated lockdowns, mass tests and forced quarantine. In the early hours of the night, a large contingent of police in the capital Beijing took action against hundreds of protesters near the diplomatic district. It was unclear how many people were arrested. There is a virtual blackout on news in China.

Cries of “Down with the Communist Party! Down with Xi Jinping!” listen. Under the current head of state and party leader, the People’s Republic is pursuing a strict zero-Covid strategy that tries to contain any local flare-up of the virus with rigid isolation methods.

The trigger for the rare public expressions of displeasure was a house fire in the metropolis of Ürümqi in Xinjiang in north-west China on Thursday evening, killing at least ten people. Many expressed the suspicion that the rescue work had been hampered by the strict corona measures.

Whole blocks of flats sealed off

Due to the extremely rigid measures taken by the authorities in the fight against the corona virus, dissatisfaction among the population has been increasing for weeks. Many megacities are largely paralyzed. People are bothered by the constant testing, curfews, forced quarantines, close surveillance by corona apps and contact tracing that authorities are using to try and get a grip on the easily spreading omicron variants of the virus.

Even in the case of individual infections or suspected cases, entire blocks of flats and residential complexes are cordoned off. Angry residents tore down cordons in Beijing and elsewhere. In the capital, shops, restaurants and schools are closed. Experts estimate that a fifth of the second largest economy and thus hundreds of millions of people across the country are likely to be affected by lockdowns. Many companies are reaching their limits. Employed workers and migrant workers in particular often have to accept painful wage cuts.

Peak in infections

Despite the rigorous action against the virus, the population of billions is currently being hit by the worst corona wave since the pandemic began almost three years ago. The Health Commission reported a record high in the country on Monday with around 40,000 new infections. In Beijing there were almost 3,900 cases.

Deputy FDP parliamentary group leader Alexander Graf Lambsdorff told the German Press Agency: “I have long believed that the Chinese Communist Party’s zero-Covid policy is doomed to failure. The pressure among the population is increasing like in a steam boiler and breaking now for the first time train.” The combination of corona protests with demands for freedom and democracy in higher education has “a new quality”.

In the Politburo and Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, this could only be seen as a threat to their own claim to total power, said Lambsdorff. “One must therefore fear a very harsh reaction from the regime. The protests are still in their infancy. It would be naïve to believe that they could already lead to fundamental changes at this stage.”

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