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Workers riot at biggest Apple factory in China and smash up surveillance cameras clash security

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 11/24/2022 Reuters and James Gordon For Dailymail.com

Apple's major supplier Foxconn said on Thursday a 'technical error' occurred when hiring new recruits at a COVID-hit iPhone factory in China and apologized to workers after the company was rocked by fresh labor unrest.

Men smashed surveillance cameras and clashed with security personnel as hundreds of workers protested at the world's biggest iPhone plant in Zhengzhou city on Wednesday, in rare scenes of open dissent in China sparked by claims of overdue pay and frustration over severe COVID-19 restrictions.

Hundreds of workers took to the streets around the vast iPhone factory in Zhengzhou confronting hazmat-clad personnel wielding batons in an unusual display of public anger in China.

In the wake of the unrest, Zhengzhou authorities ordered mass testing and an effective lockdown for several districts in the central Chinese city starting Friday.

Security personnel in protective clothing could be seen attacking a protester and kicking them © Provided by Daily Mail Security personnel in protective clothing could be seen attacking a protester and kicking them Employees at the world's biggest Apple iPhone factory were beaten and detained in protests over pay amid anti-virus controls, according to witnesses and videos on social media © Provided by Daily Mail Employees at the world's biggest Apple iPhone factory were beaten and detained in protests over pay amid anti-virus controls, according to witnesses and videos on social media

City center residents cannot leave the area unless they have a negative Covid test and permission from local authorities, and are advised not to leave their homes 'unless necessary'.

The restrictions will affect more than six million people but do not cover the iPhone factory, where workers have already been under Covid restrictions for weeks.

Workers frustration boiled over as they explained on social media that they had been informed that Foxconn intended to delay bonus payments. 

Some workers also complained they were forced to share dormitories with colleagues who had tested positive for COVID.

'Our team has been looking into the matter and discovered a technical error occurred during the onboarding process,' Foxconn said in a statement, referring to the hiring of new workers.

Hundreds of workers took to the streets around the vast iPhone factory in Zhengzhou confronting hazmat-clad personnel wielding batons in a rare display of public anger in China

Hundreds of workers took to the streets around the vast iPhone factory in Zhengzhou confronting hazmat-clad personnel wielding batons in a rare display of public anger in China
© Provided by Daily Mail

'We apologize for an input error in the computer system and guarantee that the actual pay is the same as agreed and the official recruitment posters.'

The latest unrest has exposed communication problems and a mistrust of Foxconn management among some staff, with some workers accusing the company of not acting effectively to curb the spread of COVID and then misleading them over wages.

Many workers were also incensed by 'chaotic' living conditions, one worker who wished to remain anonymous said.

Foxconn's apology on Thursday was an about-face from a day earlier when it said it had fulfilled its payment contracts.

The largest protests had died down by Thursday and the company was communicating with employees engaged in smaller protests, a Foxconn source familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The person said the company had reached 'initial agreements' with employees to resolve the dispute and production at the plant continued on Thursday.

Security personnel in protective clothing attack a protester during protest at the factory compound operated by Foxconn who run the world's biggest Apple iPhone factory in Zhengzhou in central China's Henan province © Provided by Daily Mail Security personnel in protective clothing attack a protester during protest at the factory compound operated by Foxconn who run the world's biggest Apple iPhone factory in Zhengzhou in central China's Henan province Violent protests have broken out around Foxconn's vast iPhone factory in central China © Provided by Daily Mail Violent protests have broken out around Foxconn's vast iPhone factory in central China

The Taiwanese company said it would respect the wishes of new recruits who wanted to resign and leave the factory campus, and would offer them 'care subsidies'. 

A screenshot of a message to employees from Foxconn, and seen by Reuters, showed the subsidies amounted to 10,000 yuan ($1,400) per worker.

Zhengzhou announced on Wednesday that it would conduct mass coronavirus testing as China reported a record 31,400 new daily cases of locally acquired COVID the National Health Bureau reported, the highest since the pandemic began.

The curbs in Zhengzhou are part of China's national zero-tolerance approach to Covid, which involves grueling lockdowns, travel restrictions and mass testing.

In some ways, Foxconn's Zhengzhou plant operates like a small city. 

Home to over 200,000 workers, the compound has dormitories, restaurants, basketball courts and a football pitch across its sprawling roughly 1.4 million square meter facility.

The factory, which makes Apple Inc devices including the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max, accounts for 70% of iPhone shipments globally.

In the wake of the unrest, Zhengzhou authorities ordered mass testing and an effective lockdown for several districts in the central Chinese city starting Friday © Provided by Daily Mail In the wake of the unrest, Zhengzhou authorities ordered mass testing and an effective lockdown for several districts in the central Chinese city starting Friday

Foxconn workers told Reuters the Apple supplier used an apartment complex near the factory to house infected workers and their close contacts when the outbreak first emerged in October.

Apple said it had staff at the factory and was 'working closely with Foxconn to ensure their employees' concerns are addressed'.

Several shareholder activists told Reuters the protests showed the risks Apple faces through its reliance on manufacturing in China.

'The extreme dependence of Apple on China, both as a consumer market and as its place of primary manufacturing, we see that a very risky situation,' said Christina O´Connell, a senior manager for SumOfUs, a nonprofit corporate accountability group.

Reuters earlier reported that iPhone output at the Zhengzhou factory could slump by as much as 30% in November following worker unrest last month, and that Foxconn aimed to resume full production there by the second half of the month.

Apple has warned it expects lower shipments of premium iPhone 14 models than previously anticipated.

The factory has been rocked by worker unrest and discontent since October.

Some staff fled the campus rather than submit to Foxconn's so-called closed loop system, which requires workers to live and work on site.

The Foxconn protests have been among the highest-profile bouts of unrest.

Several cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chongqing have tightened Covid restrictions as cases have climbed.

The capital now requires a negative PCR test result within 48 hours for those seeking to enter public places such as shopping malls, hotels and government buildings, Beijing authorities said. Schools across the city have moved to online classes.

The southern manufacturing hub of Guangzhou -- where nearly a third of the latest Covid cases were found -- has built thousands of temporary hospital rooms to accommodate patients.

A series of new rules announced by the central government this month appeared to signal a shift away from zero-Covid, easing quarantine requirements for entering the country and simplifying a system for designating high-risk areas.

But China has yet to approve more effective mRNA vaccines for public use and only 85 percent of adults over 60 had received two doses of domestic vaccines by mid-August, according to health authorities.

And Shijiazhuang, a city neighboring Beijing that was seen as a pilot for testing reopening strategies, reversed most of its easing measures this week.

'The path to reopening may be slow, costly and bumpy,' Ting Lu, chief China economist at Nomura, said in a note.

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