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Protests at Apple manufacturer Foxconn: Riot in China's iPhone factory


Nowhere are more Apple phones built than in Zhengzhou. There had already been unrest here at the end of October after anti-Covid measures were taken. Now the situation is escalating again. The Foxconn factory becomes a symbol of frustration in China.

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Uprising in Zhengzhou: Shaky photos show the protests at the Foxconn factory

Photo: AP / picture alliance

Another revolt has broken out in the world's largest iPhone factory.

Hundreds of workers have joined violent protests at the Chinese contract manufacturer Foxconn's plant in the city of Zhengzhou.

Numerous videos circulated on social networks on Wednesday, in some men smashed surveillance cameras and windows, armed law enforcement officers shot tear gas.

This means that the situation around the factory is coming to a head again, after shocking pictures circulated around the world at the end of October.

At that time, employees protested against the tough lockdown rules that imposed them on the huge factory site.

They climbed fences and fled the area on foot.

Now the tensions are escalating again and there are rare scenes of open protest in China.

The iPhone factory is once again a symbol of the growing frustration with the government's tough Covid regulations.

The current protests are said to have been triggered by plans for delayed bonus payments, as many of the demonstrators said in live streams.

"Give us our wages!" workers chanted in videos that could not be immediately verified.

The demonstrators were surrounded by people in white hazmat suits, some of whom were carrying batons.

Other footage shows tear gas being used and workers tearing down the quarantine barriers.

Some workers also complained about being forced to share their dormitories with colleagues who had allegedly tested positive for Covid-19.

Foxconn denied the allegations.

The company has met its payment obligations, it said in a statement.

Reports of infected employees who lived with others on campus are "untrue".

"Regarding any violence, the company will continue to communicate with employees and the government to prevent similar incidents from happening again," the company added.

It is now also questionable how the unrest will affect production in the factory.

Around 200,000 people regularly work in the factory.

After the escalation at the end of October, the company wanted to resume full production in the second half of November.

An insider told Reuters news agency that production was unaffected by the current unrest and was "running normally".

However, according to the source, the destination is "uncertain";

Some of the employees newly hired after the October riots took part in the current protests.

A second source familiar with the matter, on the other hand, said Foxconn was unlikely to meet its target, citing the disruption caused by the riots, which particularly affected new hires.

"Given the unrest, it is certain that we will not be able to resume normal production until the end of the month."

Impact also for Apple and the iPhone 14

This would also have an impact on the US company Apple.

The Americans get about 70 percent of their iPhones from Foxconn, including the latest iPhone 14 model. Most of the devices come from Zhengzhou, the area around the factory complex is also called "iPhone City";

but there are other, smaller Foxconn factories.

After the unrest broke out a few weeks ago, the US group had already warned of limited deliveries, observers expected 30 percent fewer iPhones to be produced in Zhengzhou in November anyway.

Apple is currently not responding to inquiries.

At the end of October, dissatisfaction ignited after a corona outbreak in the region.

Foxconn had introduced a closed-loop system common in China to comply with the state's strict anti-Covid rules.

The employees live and work on the premises without contact with the outside world until the quarantine measures are lifted.

Numerous factories, including Tesla in Shanghai, had temporarily set up similar models.

The government hopes to be able to use these models to prevent the spread of infections without completely shutting down the economy as in previous years.

But Foxconn grew unhappy with the strict quarantine regulations, the company's inability to combat outbreaks and the poor conditions

including the lack of food.

It is estimated that thousands broke free and fled into the country.

Lured into the factory with bonuses

In order to keep the rest of the workforce and attract new employees, Foxconn had to offer bonuses and higher salaries.

In some cases, the company is said to have offered $3,500 for two months of work even for simple jobs – significantly more than is usual in the region.

Local authorities also helped by sending retired soldiers and government employees to the factory, according to local media.

It is possible that the authorities' eagerness to recruit workers may have played a role in the escalation now, as there may have been a "miscommunication" on issues related to allowances and housing.

The Zhengzhou government did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment from Reuters.

In the videos, workers complain about never being sure if they would get meals during quarantine or the inadequate cordoning off to contain an outbreak.

"It is now apparent that Foxconn's closed production is only helping to prevent the spread of Covid in the city, but is doing nothing (or even making it worse) for the workers at the factory," said


Aiden Chau

Labor Bulletin, a Hong Kong-based organization via email.

Meanwhile, the government is trying to prevent the protests from escalating.

As of Wednesday afternoon, most of the footage had already been removed from the Kuaishou social media platform, where Reuters had viewed many of the videos.

Kuaishou did not respond to a request for comment.


Source: spiegel

All news articles on 2022-11-23

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