Two European journalists, who were covering the protests in China against the strict coronavirus measures, were arrested on Sunday.

BBC journalist Ed Lawrence was arrested in Shanghai and was allegedly beaten up by the police, the British public broadcaster said in a 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,” the broadcaster said.

The second arrested journalist is Michael Peuker, the correspondent for Radio Télévision Suisse, the French-language branch of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation. Both journalists have been released.

The protests had broken out in several Chinese cities, including Shanghai, Beijing and Wuhan, after 10 persons were killed in a fire at a high-rise building in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region, on November 24.

The protestors have claimed that the victims could not escape as the building was partially locked down. However, city officials denied the claims and instead blamed the residents for being “too weak” to rescue themselves.

The BBC said on Sunday that it was worrying that Lawrence was attacked while he was doing his job. The statement also said the Chinese authorities did not offer any explanation, just claimed that Lawrence was arrested “for his own good” in case he got infected with Covid-19 from the crowd.

“We do not consider this a credible explanation,” it added.

Lawrence, a senior journalist and camera operator for the BBC’s China Bureau, had been tweeting about the protest on Sunday afternoon. The journalist said that he had seen three protestors being arrested of which two had fought with the police.

Following his arrest and release, Lawrence also said that the police arrested one Chinese citizen who was trying to stop the officials from beating him up.

Meanwhile, Radio Télévision Suisse’s Peuker was arrested after a live broadcast. He knew that he was going to be arrested.

“The tension is at its height here,” he had said during his broadcast. “Proof of this is that I am now surrounded by three police officers, I will be taken on board after this duplex at the police station.”

The correspondent and his cameraman were taken into custody after Peuker went off air. The Swiss broadcaster said that the two were released after minutes of negotiation.

Zero-Covid policy

Several cities across China have imposed lockdowns and other restrictions to curb the spread of the infection, under zero-Covid policy.

Through the “zero-Covid” strategy, China aims to isolate every patient and eliminate the virus entirely to prevent overwhelming healthcare systems. Some of the norms under the policy were relaxed in November. However, the policy, which has been described as unsustainable by the World Health Organization, is seemingly being implemented again.

On Saturday, China had registered a record 39,791 Covid-19 cases, Reuters reported, citing the country’s National Health Commission. Out of these, 3,709 cases were symptomatic infections, whereas 36,082 were asymptomatic.

One person died due to the disease, taking the total number of fatalities to 5,233.

The country had reported its first Covid-related death in six months on November 20.