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Violent protests erupt at iPhone factory in Zhengzhou amid pay complaints and COVID-19 containment measures

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Hundreds of workers took part in a protest at Foxconn’s flagship iPhone factory in China, with some men smashing security cameras and windows, according to footage uploaded to social media.

A rare scene of open dissent in China marks an escalation of unrest at a large factory in Zhengzhou, where dissatisfaction with the country’s very stringent COVID-19 rules and their inadequate Symbolizes handling. Situation with the world’s largest contract manufacturer.

The trigger for the protests, which began early Wednesday morning, appeared to be a plan to delay bonus payments, many of the demonstrators said in a livestream feed.

“Give us our salaries!” yelled a worker inside, surrounded by people in protective clothing and carrying batons, according to video footage.

Other footage showed tear gas being deployed and workers tearing down the quarantine barrier.

The commotion at the Foxconn facility began in October. After a number of COVID-19 outbreaks, the facility implemented a “closed-loop system,” forcing staff to live and work at the facility without contact with the outside world.

Before the turmoil, the facility employed 200,000 people, but many fled when the closed-loop system began, forcing the company to rapidly recruit new workers to maintain production targets. . Staff are reportedly forced to sleep in on-site dormitories next to workers infected with COVID-19.

In the video, workers gushed about not being sure food would be available during quarantine or exceeding limits that were insufficient to contain the outbreak.

“Foxconn never treats humans as humans,” said one.

many reasons for anxiety

Those protests escalated into complaints over compensation this week, new employee Li Sanshan told The Associated Press.

Li said she quit her catering job in response to an advertisement promising 25,000 yuan (about US$3,500) for two months of work. Li, 28, said employees were upset when they learned she would have to work underpaid for two more months before receiving the 25,000 yuan.

“Foxconn put out a very attractive recruitment offer and workers came from all over the country, but found themselves being made fun of,” Li said.

Experts say the protests at the facility have sparked wider unrest.

WATCH | China doubles down on COVID-zero strategy amid new outbreak:

China doubles down on ‘COVID zero’ policy as cases surge

Beijing has reported its first COVID death in months amid a surge in cases across the country. But despite the rising economic and political costs of China’s controversial “zero-coronavirus” lockdown and quarantine, officials may not find alternatives.

“It is now clear that closed-loop production at Foxconn will only help prevent COVID from spreading through the city and will do nothing (if not worse) for factory workers,” Hong Kong-based advocacy The group said in an email:

“Anxiety Pocket”

Jia Wang, interim director of the China Institute at the University of Alberta, said China faces a labor shortage and workers at Foxconn factories and elsewhere know it.

“COVID has definitely made things more difficult in closed-loop systems,” she told CBC News in an interview. “Workers have all the cards now.”

Wang said it was shocking for an outsider to witness such protests in China, but the reality is that there are hundreds of protests taking place in China at any given time. It’s possible, but outsiders won’t hear about it. The regime can control the flow of much information.

“There will probably always be a lot of little pockets of anxiety.”

Foxconn said in a statement that it was honoring payment agreements and that reports of infected staff living on campus with new recruits were “not true.”

“Regarding violence, the company is in communication with employees and the government to ensure that similar incidents do not occur again,” the company said.

Increase in number and severity of outbreaks

Foxconn is a major supplier to Apple, making about 70% of the company’s iPhones. Foxconn has other facilities in China, Taiwan and India, but the Zhengzhou factory is the largest single manufacturer of devices.

Security guards in hazmat suits appear attacking protesters during a protest at a Foxconn factory in Zhengzhou, China. Above all, the facility is the world’s largest single iPhone manufacturer. (Associated Press)

Protests have intensified as the number and severity of the outbreak rises across China, with authorities in regions including the capital Beijing shutting down neighborhoods and exceeding what the government allows, residents say. It imposes other restrictions.

More than 253,000 cases have been detected in the past three weeks, with a daily average rising, the government said on Tuesday.This week, officials reported China’s first death from COVID-19 in six months. did.

On Wednesday, the government reported 28,883 cases found in the past 24 hours. This includes 26,242 of her asymptomatic cases. Henan Province, whose capital is Zhengzhou, reported 851 in total.

The government will implement anti-COVID-19 policies while “resolutely overcoming the mindset of paralysis and laziness,” said Mi Feng, spokesman for the National Health Commission.

The city government of Guangzhou, where the largest outbreak occurred, announced that it had opened 19 temporary hospitals with a total of about 70,000 beds for coronavirus patients. The city announced last week plans to build a hospital and quarantine facility to accommodate 250,000 people.

Also on Wednesday, Beijing opened a hospital at its exhibition center and suspended access to Beijing Foreign Studies University after a virus case was discovered. The capital had earlier closed shopping malls and office buildings and suspended access to some apartment buildings.

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