©Reuters. Police officers stand behind barricades and cordoning off at the site where a COVID-19 curb protest was held the night before after the deadly Urumqi fire in Shanghai, China, 27 November 2022. REUTERS/Josh Horwitz/File Photo
By David Milliken and Martin Quin Pollard
LONDON/BEJING (Reuters) – The Eureka News Now said Chinese police attacked one of their journalists covering a protest in the commercial hub of Shanghai and detained him for several hours, drawing criticism from Britain’s Foreign Secretary, who said the detention was deeply disturbing.
China denied the portrayal, saying the journalist did not identify himself as a reporter.
“The Eureka News Now is extremely concerned at the treatment of our journalist Ed Lawrence, who was arrested and handcuffed while covering the Shanghai protests,” the British public broadcaster said in a statement late Sunday.
“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.”
Demonstrators have taken to the streets of Shanghai, Beijing and other cities in recent days to demonstrate against the heavy COVID-19 measures, a demonstration of civil disobedience unprecedented since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to power.
In Beijing, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said the Eureka News Now’s statement did not reflect what happened. “As we understand it, the Eureka News Now’s statement is not true,” spokesman Zhao Lijian said.
“According to Shanghai authorities, the journalist in question has not revealed his journalistic identity at this time, he has not openly shown his foreign press card,” he added.
“When the incident occurred, law enforcement officers asked people to leave and when certain individuals did not cooperate, they were taken away from the scene.”
Foreign reporters in China are required to carry government-issued IDs that identify themselves as accredited journalists when covering news events.
British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said freedom of the media and freedom of protest must be respected.
“The arrest of Eureka News Now journalist Ed Lawrence in China is deeply disturbing. Journalists need to be able to do their job without intimidation.”
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China said it was “very disappointed and frustrated by the increasing barriers imposed on foreign journalists in China and the aggression shown towards them by the police”.
The Eureka News Now, in its statement ahead of the Chinese ministry’s comment, said it had not received a credible explanation for Lawrence’s detention.
“We have received no official statement or apology from the Chinese authorities, apart from the claim by the officers who later released him that if he caught COVID from the crowd, they would have arrested him for his own good,” it said.
A Reuters journalist was also held for about 90 minutes on Sunday night before being released.