Clashes in Shanghai as Covid-19 protests flare across China

SHANGHAI/BEIJING, Nov 28 (Reuters) - Hundreds of demonstrators and police clashed in Shanghai on Sunday night as protests over China's stringent Covid-19 restrictions flared for a third day and spread to several cities in the wake of a deadly fire in the country's far west.
The wave of civil disobedience is unprecedented in mainland China since President Xi Jinping assumed power a decade ago, as frustration mounts over his signature zero-Covid policy nearly three years into the pandemic. The Covid-19 measures are also exacting a heavy toll on the world’s second-largest economy.
“I’m here because I love my country, but I don’t love my government . I want to be able to go out freely, but I can’t. Our Covid-19 policy is a game and is not based on science or reality,” said a protester in the financial hub named Shaun Xiao.
Protesters also took to the streets in the cities of Wuhan and Chengdu on Sunday, while students on numerous university campuses around China gathered to demonstrate over the weekend.
In the early hours of Monday in Beijing, two groups of protesters totalling at least 1,000 people were gathered along the Chinese capital’s 3rd Ring Road near the Liangma River, refusing to disperse.
“We don’t want masks, we want freedom. We don’t want Covid-19 tests, we want freedom,” one of the groups chanted earlier.
A fire on Thursday at a residential high-rise building in the city of Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region, triggered protests after videos of the incident posted on social media led to accusations that lockdowns were a factor in the blaze that killed 10 people.
Urumqi officials abruptly held a news conference in the early hours of Saturday to deny Covid-19 measures had hampered escape and rescue efforts. Many of Urumqi’s 4 million residents have been under some of the country’s longest lockdowns, barred from leaving their homes for as long as 100 days.
On Sunday in Shanghai, police kept a heavy presence on Wulumuqi Road, which is named after Urumqi, where a candlelight vigil the day before turned into protests.
“We just want our basic human rights. We can’t leave our homes without getting a test. It was the accident in Xinjiang that pushed people too far,” said a 26-year-old protester in Shanghai who declined to be identified given the sensitivity of the matter.
“The people here aren’t violent, but the police are arresting them for no reason. They tried to grab me ...