China tensions as minister hits out at treatment of BBC journalist

Shanghai slammed for 'shocking' treatment of BBC journalist

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A minister has hit out at China’s arrest of a BBC journalist covering anti-lockdown protests in Shanghai. Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan said it was “shocking” that cameraman Edward Lawrence was “treated in such as appalling fashion” after footage emerged on Sunday of him dragged away by police officers.

Ms Donelan also branded China’s version of events “highly skeptical” after Beijing said the journalist was arrested for his “own good in case he caught Covid from the crowd”.

The Culture Secretary told LBC: “I’ve seen the footage and it’s absolutely shocking.

“We believe and I’m sure you believe in press freedom and the ability for the media to be able to report all over the globe and communicate what is actually happening on the ground.

“And that I believe is what this individual was trying to do, they were just trying to do their job. It’s quite shocking they were treated in such as appalling fashion and I wait the full details of that from the Chinese government.

“I know they’ve given a version of the truth which I’m sure we would all agree is highly skeptical.”

Asked whether China is a “friend or foe”, Ms Donelan said the country presents “very worrying and concerning” challenges.

She said: “The Prime Minister did a detailed speech about this last night where he pointed out the fact we can’t ignore or bury our heads in the sands that China is a massive global player.

“It is very important on the world stage and we need to work with it and with the key players in that country.

“But at the same time, yes it produces strategic challenges, very worrying and concerning ones and we can’t shy away from that.

“That’s why we’ll be updating the integrated review in the spring.”

Her comments come as Rishi Sunak has come under criticism for failing to label China as a “threat”, instead opting for the softer term “challenge”.

Defending the Prime Minister, Ms Donelan said it was possible to get “hung up on the semantics” when asked if the UK views China as a “challenge” or a “threat”.

She told Sky News: “I think we can get a little bit hung up on the semantics here, but what (Rishi Sunak) said last night was it does present strategic challenges, and he’s talked about the fact that we’ve got to have our eyes open.

“We can’t forget the fact, or underestimate the fact, that they’re a massive global player and that we do need to engage with them.

“But at the same time, we’ve got to do that, as I say, with our eyes open. They do present strategic challenges.”

In his first major foreign policy speech, the Prime Minister said Britain had to “evolve” its approach to Beijing.

In the speech at the annual Lord Mayor’s Banquet in London’s Guildhall last night, he said the “golden era” of UK-Chinese relations was over but added that it was wrong to “rely on simplistic Cold War rhetoric”.

Mr Sunak said: “We recognise China poses a systemic challenge to our values and interests, a challenge that grows more acute as it moves towards even greater authoritarianism.

“Instead of listening to their people’s protests, the Chinese Government has chosen to crack down further, including by assaulting a BBC journalist.”

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