British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said China posed a “systemic challenge” to Britain’s “values and interests” in his first major foreign policy speech since taking office in October.
Downing Street condemned Beijing after a BBC reporter claimed he was beaten by police and detained for several hours while covering the Covid-19 lockdown protests in Shanghai.
“Instead of listening to the protests of its people, the Chinese government has chosen to crack down more, including by assaulting a BBC journalist,” Sunak said in his address to the mayor of London’s banquet.
“The media – and our parliamentarians – must be able to bring these issues to light without sanction, including by exposing the abuses in Xinjiang – and the restriction of freedom in Hong Kong,” he added.
The British broadcaster said Lawrence was assaulted and kicked by police.
After his release, the journalist tweeted on Monday to thank his supporters, adding that he believed “at least one local was arrested after he tried to stop the police from hitting me.”
The Chinese Foreign Ministry says Lawrence did not identify himself as a journalist.
It follows nationwide protests against strict Covid-19 measures after a deadly fire at a residential building during a lockdown last week.