Violent protest erupts at Apple’s iPhone plant in China over COVID

Godfrey Elimian
The violence underscores the growing tension at the Zhengzhou plant since the latest lockdown began in October.
Foxconn plant, Apple's biggest iPhone plant
Angry protests at giant iPhone factory in Zhengzhou

Protests have erupted at the world’s biggest iPhone factory in China as hundreds of employees clashed with security personnel in a protest early Wednesday in the Chinese city of Zhengzhou, according to online footage.

The protest at Apple’s Foxconn iPhone plant is amid growing tensions over restrictions intended to suppress a COVID-19 outbreak.

More than 100 workers at the Foxconn Iphone plant were seen leaving their dormitories and pushing past outnumbered guards in videos sent by eyewitnesses to Bloomberg. The video also revealed over a hundred workers marching while people in hazmat suits and riot police confronted some.

Apple’s Foxconn plant

One clip showed several people wearing what appeared to be white haz-mat suits striking a man on the ground with sticks, while another showed people charging through barricades as onlookers chant “fight, fight!”

Those live streaming the protests said police beat workers. Videos also showed clashes.

According to a witness, the protest broke out overnight over unpaid salaries and concerns about an infectious epidemic at the company. Before the law enforcement agents could calm things down, several workers were hurt in the brawl.

Although. both Apple and Foxconn representatives didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, Foxconn said it would work with staff and local government to prevent further violence.

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More on the Foxconn Plant Protest

Foxconn, which employs about 200,000 people, is Apple’s biggest iPhone maker, producing about 70% of iPhone shipments globally. The Taiwanese firm is Apple’s main subcontractor, and its Zhengzhou plant assembles more iPhones than anywhere else in the world.

Foxconn Plant in Zhengzhou
Foxconn Plant in Zhengzhou

The plant was shut down last month because of an increase in Covid cases, which led several employees to leave early and go home. The business then hired new personnel by promising them large bonuses.

The company acknowledged that some employees had concerns about pay but assured them that it would honour contracts for pay. It also referred to rumours that fresh recruits were required to live in dorms with staff members who were Covid-positive as “patently untrue” and false.

Dormitories were disinfected and checked by local officials before new people moved in, Foxconn said.

The violence underscores the growing tension at the Zhengzhou Iphone plant since the latest lockdown began in October.

A live-streaming website uploaded a video of employees yelling: “Defend our rights! Defend our rights!” Other employees were seen using sticks to break windows and security cameras.

This was the statement of a Foxconn worker, according to the live stream:

“They changed the contract so that we could not get the subsidy as they had promised. They quarantine us but don’t provide food. If they do not address our needs, we will keep fighting.”

He also claimed to have seen a man “severely injured” after a beating by police.

According to a statement shared with BBC by another Foxconn worker who just recently started working at the plant, Foxconn had “changed the contract they promised”.

“Those workers who are protesting are wanting to get a subsidy and return home,” the staff member said in explaining the fears of the newly recruited workers contracting the disease from the old workers.

Another witness, a newly recruited employee, mentioned he visited the protest scene on Wednesday, and he saw “one man with blood over his head lying on the ground”. I didn’t know the exact reason why people are protesting, but they are mixing us, new workers, with old workers who were [Covid] positive,” he said to BBC.

In late October, many workers fled the plant amid rising Covid cases and allegations of poor treatment of staff. Their escape was captured on social media as they rode lorries back to their hometowns in the central Chinese province.

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