Two weeks after Apple warned of production delays in China amid increasing coronavirus restrictions, the giant faces more challenges as worker protests erupt at its biggest manufacturing partner Foxconn.
Hundreds of workers at the world’s largest iPhone factory in central China have clashed with police, according to videos shared over the past few days by Foxconn workers in Duyin and Kuizhou. Some videos showed workers coming out of their dormitories and being beaten by security personnel.
The incident was the culmination of a weeks-long COVID outbreak at an iPhone factory in Zhengzhou as Foxconn tried to contain the spread of the virus while telling workers to stay on the production line ahead of the holiday season. The protest appears to contain a number of triggers, including the denial of bonuses to workers for working in a pandemic environment and fears of staying in the same dorm with infected peers.
A dozen live streams showing the protest were removed in real time when TechCrunch checked early Wednesday morning. Users were reminding each other not to film large crowds to circumvent censorship. One live broadcaster shouted to his audience, “Please help us get the word out and get us national headlines!”
In late October, a coronavirus outbreak at Foxconn’s Zhengzhou factory, which normally houses around 200,000 workers, sent people fearful of COVID fleeing on foot, according to social media posts at the time. Since then, Foxconn has tried to lure workers back by increasing salaries. Local governments across Henan Province, where Zhengzhou is located, have been tasked with mobilizing residents to join Foxconn.
Apple is hardly the only one hurt by China’s ongoing “COVID-zero” containment policy. Tesla closed its Shanghai factory several times as local cases soared. Similarly, an outbreak in the northern city of Changchun forced automakers such as Volkswagen and Toyota to pause production earlier this year.