Police beat up workers protesting a pay dispute at the biggest factory for Apple’s iPhone, whose new model is being delayed by controls imposed as China tries to contain a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Foxconn, the biggest contract assembler of smartphones and other electronics, is struggling to fill orders for the iPhone 14 after thousands of workers walked out of a factory in the central city of Zhengzhou last month following complaints about unsafe working conditions.
China’s status as an export powerhouse is based on factories like Foxconn that assemble the world’s consumer electronics, toys and other goods.
The ruling Communist Party is trying to contain the latest wave of the outbreak without shutting down factories and the rest of the economy, as it did in early 2020. Contact Ajay.
Foxconn offered higher wages to attract more workers to the Zhengzhou factory to assemble the iPhone 14, which starts at $799 in the United States.
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On Tuesday, workers who travel long distances to work at the factory complained that the company had changed their pay conditions, according to Li Sanshan, an employee.
Li said he quit his catering job when he saw an advertisement for 25,000 yuan ($3,500) for two months’ work. This would be a significant increase compared to the average salary for this type of work in the area.
After the workers arrived, the company told them they would have to work two additional months at lower wages to receive the 25,000 yuan, according to Li.
“Foxconn issued very tempting recruitment offers, and workers came from all parts of the country, only to find they were being duped,” he said.
Videos online showed thousands of people wearing masks, white protective suits and plastic riot shields facing lines of police. Police beat and kicked a protester with lathis after he grabbed the metal pole that was used to beat him. The people who shot the footage said it was filmed on site.
The protests in Zhengzhou come as the ruling Communist Party faces growing frustration about restrictions in regions across China that have closed shops and offices and confined millions of people to their homes.
It has boiled over into protests in some cities. Videos on social media showed residents breaking down barricades put up to enforce neighborhood closures.
The ruling party promised this month to try to ease disruptions by shortening quarantines and making other changes. But the party has stuck to a “zero-COVID” strategy that aims to isolate every case while other governments relax controls and try to live with the virus.
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The protests in Zhengzhou lasted until Wednesday morning, as thousands of workers gathered outside dormitories and clashed with factory security personnel, according to Li.
Apple Inc did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The company previously warned that deliveries of the iPhone 14 would be delayed after access to an industrial zone around the Zhengzhou factory, which Foxconn says employs 200,000 people, was suspended following the outbreak.
Other videos showed protesters spraying fire extinguishers towards the police.
A video posted on the Sina Weibo social media platform showed a man who identified himself as the Communist Party secretary in charge of community services urging the protesters to withdraw. He assured that their demands would be met.
Foxconn, which is headquartered in New Taipei City, Taiwan, said its contractual obligation regarding the payments “has always been met.”
The company denied what it said were online comments that workers with the virus lived in dormitories at the Zhengzhou factory. It said the facilities had been disinfected and had passed government checks before the staff arrived.
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“With regard to any violence, the company will continue to communicate with the employees and the government to prevent similar incidents from happening again,” a company statement said.
Foxconn offered up to 10,000 yuan ($1,400) to newly hired employees who wanted to quit and return home, finance news outlet Calianche reported, citing unnamed recruiting agents.
Foxconn did not respond to a request for confirmation or details.
Protests have flared up as the number and severity of outbreaks have risen across China, prompting regions including Beijing, the capital, to seal off neighborhoods and impose other restrictions residents say go beyond what the national government allows.
Beijing’s largest district urges residents to stay home as COVID cases rise
The government reported on Tuesday that more than 253,000 cases have been detected in the last three weeks and the daily average is rising. This week, officials reported China’s first COVID-19 deaths in six months.
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“The government will implement its anti-Covid policy while thoroughly overcoming the mentality of paralysis and laxity,” said Mi Feng, a spokesman for the National Health Commission.
Early Thursday, the government reported a total of 31,656 cases detected in the past 24 hours, including 27,646 without symptoms and 212 infections that were acquired overseas. The total was up almost 10% from the previous day.
In addition, on Thursday people in eight districts of Zhengzhou totaling 6.6 million residents were told to stay at home for five days, only going out to buy food or seek medical treatment. Daily mass testing was ordered in what the city government called a “war of annihilation” against the virus.
The city government of Guangzhou, the site of the largest outbreak, announced on Wednesday that it had opened 19 temporary hospitals with about 70,000 beds for coronavirus patients. The city announced plans last week to build hospitals and quarantine facilities for 250,000 people.
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Also on Wednesday, Beijing opened a hospital at an exhibition center and suspended access to the Beijing University of International Studies after a virus case was found there. The capital had earlier closed shopping malls and office buildings and suspended access to some apartment compounds.