Workers at Apple iPhone factory in China beaten in COVID protest

Workers at Apple iPhone factory in China beaten in COVID protest

  • Business
  • November 24, 2022
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Workers at the world’s largest Apple iPhone factory were beaten and arrested during protests over pay amid antivirus controls on Wednesday, according to witnesses and videos on social media, as tensions mount over Chinese efforts to combat a renewed surge in infections.

Videos said to be filmed at the factory in downtown Zhengzhou showed thousands of people wearing masks facing rows of police officers in white hazmat suits holding plastic shields. Police kicked and beat a protester with clubs after he grabbed a metal bar with which he had been hit.

Frustration with restrictions in areas across China that have closed shops and offices and locked millions in their homes has sparked protests. Videos on social media show residents tearing down barricades erected to enforce neighborhood closures.

The ruling Communist Party vowed this month to try to lessen the disruptions by shortening quarantines and making other changes. But the party is sticking to a “zero-COVID” strategy aimed at isolating every case while other governments relax controls and try to live with the virus.

Last month, thousands of workers left the iPhone factory, operated by Taiwan’s Foxconn Technology Group, over complaints about unsafe working conditions following virus cases.

A protest broke out Tuesday over complaints that Foxconn had changed conditions for new workers attracted by offers of higher wages, according to Li Sanshan, an employee.

“Made a Fool”

Li said he quit a catering job in response to an ad that promised 25,000 yuan ($3,500) for two months of work. Li, 28, said the workers were upset after being told they would have to work two more months at lower wages to get the 25,000 yuan.

“Foxconn posted very tempting recruitment offers, and workers came from all over the country only to find they were being fooled,” Li said.

Foxconn, headquartered in New Taipei City, Taiwan, said in a statement that “work compensation” was “always met on the basis of contractual obligations.”

Foxconn denied that it was online comments that employees with the virus were living in dormitories at the Zhengzhou factory. The facilities were disinfected and inspected by the government before staff moved in.

“Regarding any violence, the company will continue to communicate with employees and the government to prevent similar incidents from happening again,” the company’s statement said.

Protests have flared as the number and severity of outbreaks have increased across China, prompting authorities in areas like Beijing, the capital, to close neighborhoods and impose other restrictions that residents say are going beyond , which the national government allows.

More than 253,000 cases have been detected in the past three weeks and the daily average is rising, the government reported on Tuesday. This week, authorities reported China’s first COVID-19 deaths in six months.

On Wednesday, the government reported 28,883 cases found in the past 24 hours, including 26,242 with no symptoms. Henan Province, where Zhengzhou is the capital, reported a total of 851.

The government will enforce its anti-COVID policy while “resolutely overcoming the mindset of paralysis and laxity,” said a spokesman for the National Health Commission, Mi Feng.

Ohina builds temporary hospitals

The municipal government of Guangzhou, the site of the biggest outbreaks, announced the opening of 19 makeshift hospitals with a total of nearly 70,000 beds for coronavirus patients. The city last week announced plans to build hospital and quarantine facilities for 250,000 people.

Also on Wednesday, Beijing opened a hospital at an exhibition center and access to the Beijing International Studies University was blocked after a virus case was found there. The capital had previously closed shopping malls and office buildings and blocked access to some residential complexes.

Foxconn previously said its Zhengzhou factory uses “closed-loop management,” meaning employees live incommunicado at their workplace.

Apple CEO Tim Cook on the latest Apple features, the economy and what’s next 06:24

The protest lasted until Wednesday morning, when thousands of workers gathered outside the dormitories and faced off with factory security workers, according to Li.

Other videos showed protesters spraying fire extinguishers at police.

A man posing as the Communist Party secretary in charge of municipal services was shown in a video posted to social media platform Sina Weibo urging protesters to back down. He assured them that their demands would be met.

Apple has warned that deliveries of its new iPhone 14 model would be delayed due to anti-disease checks at the factory. The city government blocked access to an industrial area surrounding the factory, which Foxconn says employs 200,000 people.

“The COVID China shutdown at Foxconn was a major blow to Apple this quarter and we believe they have pulled about 5% of iPhone 14 units from the supply chain, putting Cupertino into a ‘major shortage’ heading into the next ‘ month,” Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said in a report Tuesday.

According to news reports, the ruling party had instructed “rank and file cadres” to fill in for Foxconn employees in Zhengzhou who had left the company. The company did not respond to requests for confirmation and details of this agreement.

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