Protests erupt at China iPhone factory

BEIJING, China (AFP) — Large-scale protests broke out at Foxconn’s vast iPhone factory in Zhengzhou, central China, images circulating Wednesday on Weibo and Twitter showed.

Beijing’s unrelenting zero-Covid policy has caused fatigue and resentment among wide swathes of the population, some of whom have been locked down for weeks at factories and universities, or unable to travel freely.

In the videos, which AFP was not able to independently verify, hundreds of workers can be seen marching on a road in daylight, with some being confronted by riot police and people in hazmat suits.

Others show hundreds of people in hazmat gear standing on a road near what appears to be factory residential buildings, while the person filming the clip from an adjacent apartment building says: “It’s starting again, from last night to this morning.”

Several security personnel in protective garb appeared to be kicking a worker lying on a main road in another clip.

Video from a separate livestream showed dozens of workers at night confronting a row of police officers and a police vehicle with flashing lights, shouting: “Defend our rights! Defend our rights!”

As clouds of smoke emanate from the vehicle, the streamer can be heard saying: “They are rushing in! Smoke bombs! Tear gas!”

A clip of the same nighttime protest taken from another angle shows workers setting off fire extinguishers towards police just out of frame.

One photo taken during the day showed the charred remains of a gate, apparently burned down during the night.

The Weibo hashtag “Foxconn riots” appeared to be censored by Wednesday noon, while some text posts referencing large-scale protests at the factory remained live.

Foxconn, also known by its official name Hon Hai Precision Industry, is the world’s biggest contract electronics manufacturer, assembling gadgets for many international brands.

The Taiwanese tech giant, Apple’s principal subcontractor, recently saw a surge in Covid-19 cases at its Zhengzhou site, leading the company to shutter the vast complex in a bid to keep the virus in check.

Since then, the huge facility of some 200,000 workers — dubbed “iPhone City” — has been operating in a “closed loop” bubble.

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