Censorship concerns in China have reached boiling point as protests rage after a BBC journalist was “beaten and kicked by police” and footage showed the state broadcaster altering World Cup coverage to avoid showing mask-less crowds.
The BBC, senior UK politicians and human rights groups were this morning condemning the move by Chinese state police to arrest Reporter Ed Lawrence yesterday while he was working as an accredited journalist to cover the anti-lockdown protests, which have been taking place on and off for weeks.
Lawrence was “beaten and kicked by the police” during a several-hour-long imprisonment, according to a BBC statement.
“The BBC is extremely concerned about the treatment of our journalist Ed Lawrence, who was arrested and handcuffed while covering the protests in Shanghai,” added the pubcaster.
Lawrence later shared the statement from the BBC on social media and said he understood at least one local national was arrested after trying to stop police from beating him.
China denied the BBC’s chain of events, with a Foreign Ministry Spokesman saying Lawrence had failed to reveal his identity or show his press card.
The incident took place on one of the fiercest protest days.
Over the past weeks, protestors have taken to the streets across the country due to frustrations with the government’s strict Covid-19 policies while other nations have now mostly done away with restrictions.
Lockdowns are still commonplace in China and range from small areas to large counties when there are just a few cases of the virus, which has led to a multitude of issues. Protestors have been holding up blank pieces of A4 paper, which have become a symbol of the protests as they nod to the denial of free speech and censorship in a nation that has just seen leader Xi Jinping secure a third term.
World Cup censorship
The Chinese state broadcaster CCTV has been criticized for its coverage of the protests and, in a further development yesterday, appeared to be censoring images of mask-less crowds at the Qatar World Cup.
According to the South China Morning Post, the live broadcast of the Japan vs Croatia game saw close-up shots of maskless fans waving flags replaced by images of officials stood alone or in small groups on the touchline. A number of video comparisons between Chinese and non-Chinese coverage circulated on Twitter and the South China Morning Post verified the coverage.
CCTV Sports showed distant shots of the crowd where it was difficult to make out individual faces, and fewer crowd shots compared to the live telecast of the same game on online platforms including Douyin – China’s version of TikTok – and coverage in the likes of North America and the UK.
This controversy is just the latest in a long line of issues as the Chinese government grapples with protests that show no sign of abating.