China’s ambassador to the UK has been summoned to the Foreign Office amid a diplomatic row over the arrest and alleged beating of a BBC journalist covering Covid protests in Shanghai, according to a UK Government source.
Zheng Zeguang has been called by James Cleverly, the Foreign Secretary, over the treatment of cameraman Edward Lawrence, who the BBC said was “beaten and kicked” by police in the Chinese city.
A source from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said: "The Chinese ambassador has been called to the FCDO.
“The BBC has been clear, one of their journalists was detained and beaten by police when covering these protests.
“We have made it clear this behaviour by the Chinese authorities is completely unacceptable.”
Mr Cleverly on Monday described the incident as “deeply disturbing”, while No 10 condemned the “shocking and unacceptable” arrest and said journalists "must be able to do their jobs without fear of intimidation”.
Downing Street urged Chinese authorities to “respect those who decide to express their views about the current situation”, as citizens take to the streets to oppose the country's draconian zero-Covid policy.
The BBC said Mr Lawrence was “arrested and handcuffed” while covering the protests in Shanghai.
“During his arrest he was beaten and kicked by police,” the broadcaster said. “This happened while he was working as an accredited journalist.”
China’s foreign ministry has reportedly contested the BBC statement, claiming Mr Lawrence did not identify himself as a journalist.