China Zero-Covid: Workers at Zhengzhou iPhone factory clash with police, videos show


Beijing/Hong Kong
CNN business

Workers at China’s largest iPhone manufacturing plant were seen confronting police on Wednesday, some in riot gear, according to videos shared via social media.

The videos show hundreds of workers confronting law enforcement officers, many in white hazmat suits, at the Foxconn campus in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou. In the now-locked footage, some of the protesters could be heard complaining about their pay and sanitary conditions.

The scenes come days after Chinese state media reported that more than 100,000 people had applied for positions advertised as part of a massive recruitment campaign at Foxconn’s Zhengzhou plant.

Apple (AAPL) has faced significant supply chain constraints at the assembly plant and expects iPhone 14 shipments to occur just as the key holiday shopping season begins. CNN has reached out to the company for comment on the situation at the plant.

A Covid outbreak last month had forced the site into lockdown, which reportedly prompted some concerned factory workers to flee.

Videos of many people leaving Zhengzhou on foot had gone viral on Chinese social media in early November, forcing Foxconn to step up measures to get its employees back. To limit the impact, the company said it quadrupled daily bonuses for workers at the plant this month.

On Wednesday, workers could be heard in the video saying Foxconn failed to deliver on its promise of an attractive bonus and salary package after arriving at the plant to work. Numerous complaints were also posted anonymously on social media platforms, accusing Foxconn of altering previously advertised pay packages.

In a statement in English on Wednesday, Foxconn said that “the allowance has always been fulfilled on the basis of contractual obligations” after some new hires at Foxconn’s Zhengzhou campus filed an appeal with the company over the work allowance on Tuesday.

Workers could also be heard in the videos complaining about insufficient anti-Covid measures and saying workers who tested positive were not being segregated from the rest of the workforce.

Foxconn said in the English statement that online speculation about Covid-positive employees living in dormitories at Foxconn’s Zhengzhou campus is “manifestly untrue.”

“Before new employees move in, the dormitory undergoes standard disinfection procedures, and only after the premises pass government inspection are the new employees allowed to move in,” Foxconn said.

Searching the term “Foxconn” on Chinese social media now returns few results, an indication of heavy censorship.

“Regarding violent behavior, the company will continue to communicate with employees and the government to prevent similar incidents from happening again,” Foxconn said in a statement in Chinese.

The Zhengzhou plant is the world’s largest iPhone assembly site. It typically accounts for about 50% to 60% of Foxconn’s global iPhone assembly capacity, according to Mirko Woitzik, global director of intelligence solutions at Everstream, a provider of supply chain risk analytics.

Apple warned of the disruption to its supply chain earlier this month, saying customers will feel the impact.

“We now expect fewer iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max shipments than previously expected,” the tech giant said in a statement. “Customers will experience longer wait times to receive their new products.”

According to a report by UBS, the waiting time for these models in the United States had reached 34 days last week.

Public frustration has grown under China’s relentless zero-Covid policy, which continues to include strict lockdowns and travel restrictions nearly three years after the pandemic began.

Last week, that sentiment was evident when social media footage showed residents in Guangzhou under lockdown tearing down barriers confining them to their homes and taking to the streets despite strictly enforced local orders.

– Michelle Toh, Simone McCarthy, Wayne Chang, Juliana Liu and Kathleen Magramo contributed to this report.

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