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London protests, Beijing clumsily defends itself

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Screen grabs from videos showing the arrest of BBC journalist Ed Lawrence in Shanghai, China on November 27, 2022. (@SHANGHAISHANG10/TWITTER)

The United Kingdom is strongly protesting this Monday, November 28 after the arrest and police violence suffered, according to the BBC, by one of its journalists who was covering the historic demonstrations against the draconian “zero Covid” policy in China, a new incident in a tense context. between London and Beijing.

“Very worried” of the treatment inflicted on Edward Lawrence, the BBC claimed that its journalist had been “arrested and handcuffed while covering protests in Shanghai”. According to a spokesperson for the British audiovisual giant, “he was beaten and beaten by the police” before being released.

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“The freedom of the press and the freedom to demonstrate must be respected”, “no country is exempt”reacted the British Minister of Foreign Affairs, James Cleverly.

Calling Ed Lawrence’s arrest on Twitter a “deeply disturbing”the head of British diplomacy underlined that “Journalists must be able to do their job without intimidation”.

Unprecedented demonstrations in China for thirty years

Triggered by the mobilization against the confinements and restrictions imposed by the authorities to fight the coronavirus epidemic, the anger which rumbles in China seems unprecedented since the pro-democracy demonstrations repressed in blood in 1989. This incident comes in a context tense between Beijing and London, against a backdrop of strong criticism from the United Kingdom, particularly on the takeover of Hong Kong by China and recent incidents on British soil.

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British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is due to deliver his first major foreign policy speech on Monday evening, arguing that the United Kingdom must defend more strongly its values ​​of freedom and openness, particularly in the face of China and the Russia.

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The arrest of the journalist and the violence denounced by the BBC are “unacceptable” and “concerning”denounced the British Minister for Business, Grant Shapps, guest of British morning shows on Monday. “Freedom of the press must be sacrosanct”he said on private radio LBC.

Journalist arrested ‘for his own good’

The BBC explained that it only had “no official explanation or apology from the Chinese authorities, beyond an assertion by officials, who later released him, that they arrested him for his own good in case he caught Covid (middle) a crowd “.

“We do not consider this to be a credible explanation”underlined the spokesman of the BBC. “At least one (Chinese) national was arrested after trying to stop the police from beating me”, Ed Lawrence tweeted on Monday. The reporter later returned to the scene of the protest, according to videos posted on his Twitter account.

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Beijing assures this Monday that Ed Lawrence had not identified himself as a journalist “and voluntarily did not present his press accreditation”according to Zhao Lijian, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, asking foreign media to “to observe Chinese laws and regulations when (while) in China”.

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The NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemned the arrest on Twitter and expressed its support for “everyone who practices fact-based journalism in China”.

An echo of Chinese “repression”

The British Secretary of State for Security, Tom Tugendhat, saw in this affair an echo of the ” repression “ that the Chinese Communist Party is trying to implement ” somewhere else “. “Attempts at state repression here in the UK remind us of the urgent need to defend our own freedoms”he tweeted.

The United Kingdom was recently marked by the violence suffered by a pro-democracy activist from Hong Kong at the Chinese consulate in Manchester (North) and by reports from a Spanish NGO according to which Beijing had opened clandestine police stations in several Western countries, especially on British soil.

Tom Tugendhat announced in early November in Parliament that British police were investigating the matter. “Any foreign country operating in the UK must follow UK law”he said, noting that“no attempt to illegally repatriate nationals will be tolerated”.

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