How a deadly fire ignited dissent over China’s zero-Covid policy

Stunning scenes of dissent and defiance played out across China over the past week, marking the country’s largest protests in decades – and an unprecedented challenge to leader Xi Jinping.

Deep public anger after nearly three years of snap lockdowns, border closures and financial hardship brought thousands out onto the streets to demand an end to China’s zero-Covid policy – with some also calling for democracy.

The country’s security forces moved swiftly to snuff out the protests, while health officials tried to appease the public by promising to soften tough Covid measures. But furious posts on Chinese social media, which continued despite censors’ best efforts, suggested it wasn’t enough.

Then came Friday, and the first known remarks from Xi on the protests – an unexpected acknowledgment of people’s frustration, according to a European Union official who declined to be named….