Warning: Graphic content.
Workers at one of central China’s largest factories have erupted in a dramatic protest as tensions flare in Zhengzhou.
Workers at Foxconn, the world’s largest technology maker, broke out in protest on November 23, clashing with security officials over pay and living conditions.
Video posted on social media showed hundreds of workers marching down a street and were confronted by riot police and people in hazmat suits.
The protest turned violent – footage shared with AFP and taken by a factory worker showed a person lying lifeless on the ground next to a man in a blood-splattered jacket, his head being tied to staunch a wound.
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Another clip showed dozens of hazmat-clad staff brandishing batons and chasing staff, one of whom was thrown to the ground before apparently being kicked in the head.
The brutal action was described on social media as “extraordinary”.
The Taiwanese company confirmed the unrest. A worker, who asked not to be identified, told AFP at least 20 people were injured and some hospitalized.
The confrontations erupted after workers who had signed an agreement with the factory to work at least 30 days for a one-off payment of 3,000 yuan (US$620) suddenly saw the figure drop to just 30 yuan (US$620). dollars) has been cut, he told AFP.
Many workers are also outraged by the “chaotic” living conditions, he said, adding that he has “not received any groceries” from the company since Tuesday.
Some Covid-negative employees have also been instructed to work with colleagues who once tested positive but have not been quarantined, the worker said.
Foxconn said workers had complained about pay and conditions at the plant but denied it had housed new recruits with Covid-positive employees at the factory in Zhengzhou, the world’s largest maker of iPhones.
“Regarding violence, the company will continue to communicate with employees and the government to prevent similar incidents from happening again,” the company said in a statement.
Apple did not respond to requests for comment.
China’s relentless zero-Covid policy has caused fatigue and resentment among sections of the population, some of whom have been confined to factories and universities for weeks or are unable to move freely.
Other videos, posted to social media and subsequently verified by AFP, included footage of a man with his face bloodied as someone off-camera says, “You hit people, you hit people. Do they have a conscience?” Another at the same scene showed dozens of workers facing a line of police officers and shouting, “Defend our rights! Defend our rights!” while another voice speaks of “smoke bombs” and “tear gas”.
The Weibo hashtag “Foxconn riots” appeared to be censored as of midday Wednesday, but some text posts related to large protests at the factory remained live.
Hot bed of unrest
Foxconn, also known by its official name Hon Hai Precision Industry, is the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer, assembling devices for many international brands.
The tech giant, Apple’s main subcontractor, recently saw a spike in Covid-19 cases at its Zhengzhou site, prompting the company to shut down the huge complex to keep the virus at bay.
The massive facility employing about 200,000 workers — dubbed “iPhone City” — has been operating in a “closed-loop” bubble ever since.
Footage emerged this month of panicked workers fleeing the site on foot after allegations of poor conditions at the facility.
Several employees later told AFP about scenes of chaos and disorganization at the workshop-dormitory complex.
The company has offered big bonuses and other incentives for employees who stayed at the plant as the local government bused in new workers to keep it afloat.
Apple acknowledged this month that the lockdown has “temporarily impacted” production ahead of the holiday season at the Zhengzhou factory, the crown jewel of the Taiwanese company, which makes iPhones in quantities unseen anywhere else.
Foxconn is China’s largest private-sector employer, with more than a million people working in about 30 factories and research institutes nationwide.
China is the latest major economy to commit to a strategy of quenching Covid outbreaks as they occur, imposing lockdowns, mass testing and lengthy quarantines despite widespread disruption to businesses and international supply chains.
The policy has sparked sporadic protests across China, with residents in several major Chinese cities taking to the streets to vent their anger.
State media outlet Global Times reported that Foxconn apologized for a “technical error that led to changes in employee subsidy policies.”
The newspaper said videos showed “some disappointed workers” protesting in Zhengzhou.
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