(Bloomberg) -- A BBC journalist was “beaten and kicked” by police during Covid-19 protests in China, the broadcaster said.

Ed Lawrence was “attacked” while covering the demonstrations in Shanghai before being handcuffed and arrested, according to a BBC statement posted on its press team’s official Twitter account. Widely circulated social media footage on Sunday showed the journalist being dragged to the ground in handcuffs.

Lawrence was held for several hours before being released, according to the statement.

“It is very worrying that one of our journalists was attacked in this way whilst carrying out his duties,” BBC said in the statement.

Officials said Lawrence was arrested in case he caught Covid-19 from the crowd, an explanation that the BBC said it didn’t consider as credible, according to the statement.

The statement shared by the BBC doesn’t reflect facts, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Monday at a regular press briefing. “Based on what we have learned from the relevant authorities of Shanghai, the journalist did not identify himself as a reporter and did not voluntarily present his press credentials,” he said.

Protests against Covid restrictions erupted across many cities and regions in China over the weekend following a deadly fire in Xinjiang, in which virus controls were blamed for hampering rescue efforts. In Shanghai, crowds gathered on both Saturday and Sunday to mourn the dead and call for an easing of restrictions. 

Read more: China Covid Unrest Boils Over as Citizens Defy Lockdown Efforts

--With assistance from Shirley Zhao, Lucille Liu and Rebecca Choong Wilkins.

(Updates with China foreign ministry comment in sixth paragraph.)

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