China chaos as riots erupts in factory over possible Covid outbreak

China: iPhone factory workers protest in Zhengzhou

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Xi Jinping’s Zero-Covid policy has led to dangerous outburst of violence in China’s eastern city of Zhengzhou. Thousands of newly recruited workers stormed out of a flaship iPhone plant and fought security guards trying to push them back into the factory. The sudden flood of people exiting the factory had just found out other employees could have Covid-19.

Footage shows the security guards are quickly outnumbered by the tens of thousands of workers trying to escape the facility.

News that they were deceived and mixed with potentially infectious colleagues led the newly-recruited workers to flock out of the iPhone building and beat back the doorkeepers.

Some protesters were seen smashing surveillance cameras and windows in footage shared by the Chinese human rights activist Jennifer Zeng. 

Alongside the video, she tweeted: “Newly recruited workers fiercely fight with security guards as they try to storm out of the factory. Reason: Foxconn tried to recruit about 100K new workers after a lot escaped a while ago. New workers were told they would live and work separately, not to be mixed with older workers who could have #COVID.”

Ms Zeng added: “But they found they were not separated. So they feel deceived. Also, the contract items were different from what they were told before.”

Chinese riot police intervened in a violent crackdown on protesters, leaving some workers bleeding. Graphic footage showed two Foxconn’s workers were beaten up by police after they tried to break out of the factory.

However, rioters fended off and some attacked riot police officers who were all wearing full hazmat suits to avoid being contamined, with some carrying batons.

“We want to go home” and “Give us our pay!”, chanted workers who were soon surrounded by riot police who deployed tear gas and took some workers to quarantine.

Foxconn said in a statement it had fulfilled its payment contracts and that reports of infected staff living on campus with new recruits were “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.

Workers went back to the factory after they clashed with police, shouting “Down with #Foxconn! Finish Foxconn!”

About 20 buses of armed police were transferred from neighbouring city of Luoyang, Jennifer Zeng reported. 

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More violent footage shows police surrounding and kicking a Foxconn worker. 

Foxconn reportedly resumed its activities quickly after the incident. While it claimed the unrest has added “uncertainties” to their production target, a source told Reuters, adding that “only a portion” of the new recruits took part in the unrest. 

This is not the first unrest breaks out at the factory campus since Apple supplier imposed a so-called closed loop system at the world’s biggest iPhone plant in late October. Under closed-loop operations, staff live and work on site, isolated from the wider world.

Aiden Chau of China Labour Bulletin, a Hong Kong-based advocacy group, said in an email to Reuters: “It’s now evident that closed-loop production in Foxconn only helps in preventing COVID from spreading to the city, but does nothing (if not make it even worse) for the workers in the factory.”

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