As hundreds took to the streets in Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan, Chengdu and other Chinese cities against the Covid Zero regime, police quickly took action to stop protesters from voicing their dissent.
The protests - an unusual sight in China - also drew the attention of many across the world but for the rest of the world the eyes and ears were foreign correspondents of global news agencies like AFP, Financial Times, the BBC and Bloomberg.
Shanghai, BBC reporter Edward Lawrence was randomly arrested by Chinese police.#TheGreatTranslationMovement pic.twitter.com/PMq8rHszlm— The Great Translation Movement 大翻译运动官方推号 (@TGTM_Official) November 27, 2022
While the protests were not violently curbed by the police, law enforcement agents increased their scrutiny of foreign correspondents. Things got out of hand later when BBC Correspondent Ed Lawrence was assaulted by Chinese police officers in Shanghai.
Ed Lawrence, who is a cameraman and senior journalist of China’s BBC Bureau, was speaking to protesters gathered in Shanghai when he was approached by police officers aiming to shut down protests.
The BBC confirmed the incident and condemned the actions of the law enforcement officials in Shanghai.
The BBC said that Lawrence was detained briefly and while he was in police custody he was beaten and kicked by police officials.
“A statement from the BBC on what happened to me in Shanghai last night while doing my job. I understand at least one local national was arrested after trying to stop the police from beating me. Thanks very much for the kind words and messages of concern,” Edward said in a tweet following his release.
“The BBC is extremely concerned about the treatment of our journalist Ed Lawrence, who was arrested and handcuffed while covering the protests in Shanghai. 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. We do not consider this a credible explanation,” the BBC said in a statement.
But the scenes of protests have shocked foreign correspondents who say they have only seen handful of protests in the years they have been living in China and those protests were due to local issues, like the one related to a regional bank scam in May and the 2021 Shenzhen protests where angry depositors demonstrated in front of property developer Evergrande’s headquarters.
Bloomberg’s Allen Wan said the protests in China’s Wulumuqi Road in Shanghai were “chaotic” in nature and thousands of protesters lined up in the streets demanding an end to Covid Zero.
“I’ve never seen so many police gathered in one spot in China. Several dozen formed a human barricade on one block to prevent people from walking along the road,” Wan wrote in a report for news agency Bloomberg, describing the scenes in Shanghai.
“I saw one woman in front of a chicken restaurant kicking and screaming as she was dragged along by police. In another instance, two officers held a man aloft by his head and feet as they took him away,” Wan further added.
Beijing and A4
In Beijing, AFP correspondent Jing Xuan Teng saw people lining up along the banks of the Liangmai river holding A4 sheets in protests and protesters online posted white squares on their WeChat social media profiles.
Teng also said that protesters on WeChat used wordplay and repeated characters with “positive" meanings on viral WeChat posts to signal their unhappiness over the Chinese government’s handling of Covid-19 and demanded an end to Covid Zero.
However, she noted that those messages were sarcastic and witty, in order to avoid censorship.
While there were chants denouncing Xi and the CCP, protesters in Beijing chanted “I want to do Covid tests! I want to scan my health code” and there was also a video where chants “Put your mask on” and “do a Covid test” were overlaid on a video which showed maskless football fans in the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
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