U.K. summons Chinese Ambassador over assault and detention of BBC Journalist

    Twitter image of BBC journalist Ed Lawrence.

    Twitter image of BBC journalist Ed Lawrence.

    The Chinese Ambassador to the U.K., Zheng Zeguang, was summoned by the British government on Tuesday following the assault and detention of BBC journalist Ed Lawrence by the police on Sunday, while he was covering protests against COVID lockdowns in Shanghai.

    U.K. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly had instructed officials to summon Mr. Zheng to account for Mr. Lawrence’s arrest, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) confirmed to The Hindu.

    Mr. Cleverly, who was in Romania on Tuesday, emphasized the importance of protecting media freedoms.

    “It is incredibly important that we protect media freedom. It is something very much at the heart of the U.K.’s belief system, and it is incredibly important that journalists can go about their business unmolested and without fear of attack,” he said as per a Reuters report.

    The FCDO also said it was in touch with Mr. Lawrence, who has since been released, and local authorities.

    A Chinese Embassy (U.K.) spokesperson said “foreign journalists need to consciously follow Chinese laws and regulations” in a statement posted to the embassy website.

    Outlining his foreign policy for the first time on Monday night, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had said the “golden era” in Britain’s relationship with China was over, and that the competition with Beijing needed to be managed, including with diplomacy and engagement. He also said competitors must be met with “robust pragmatism”

    “Instead of listening to their people’s protests, the Chinese government has chosen to crack down further….including by assaulting a BBC journalist,” Mr. Sunak told attendees at a dinner organised by the mayor of London’s financial district, the City of London.

    Former Conservative party leader and Tory backbench MP, Ian Duncan Smith, said on Monday that Mr. Sunak’s planned approach of “robust pragmatism” was “getting pretty close to appeasement”.

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