Zero-Covid China: Workers at Zhengzhou iPhone factory clash with police, videos show

Beijing/Hong Kong
CNN business

Workers at China’s largest iPhone assembly factory were seen confronting police, some in riot gear, on Wednesday, according to videos shared on social media.

Videos show hundreds of workers confronting law enforcement officers, many in white hazmat suits, on the Foxconn campus in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou. In the now frozen footage, some of the protesters could be heard complaining about their pay and sanitation conditions.

The scenes come days after Chinese state media reported more than 100,000 people had signed up to fill advertised positions as part of a massive recruitment drive held for Foxconn’s Zhengzhou plant.

Apple (AAPL) has been facing significant supply chain constraints at its assembly facility and expects iPhone 14 shipments to be hit just as the holiday shopping season begins. CNN reached out to the company for comment on the situation at the plant.

A Covid outbreak last month had forced the site to close, leading some anxious workers to flee.

Videos of many people leaving Zhengzhou on foot went viral on Chinese social media in early November, forcing Foxconn to step up measures to get its staff back. To try to limit the fallout, the company said it quadrupled the daily bonuses for workers at the plant this month.

Workers were heard on video on Wednesday saying that Foxconn failed to honor a promise of an attractive bonus and wage package after they arrived to work at the plant. Numerous complaints have also been posted anonymously on social media platforms, accusing Foxconn of changing previously advertised salary packages.

In a statement in English, Foxconn said on Wednesday that “the indemnity has always been met under the contractual obligation” after new hires at Foxconn’s Zhengzhou campus appealed to the company on Tuesday regarding the work allowance. .

Workers were also heard in the videos complaining of insufficient anti-Covid measures, saying workers who tested positive were not being separated from the rest of the workforce.

Foxconn said in the UK statement that online speculation about Covid-positive employees living in dormitories on the Foxconn campus in Zhengzhou was “patently false”.

“Before new hires move in, the dormitory environment goes through standard procedures for sanitizing, and it is only after the facility has passed government inspection that new employees can move in,” Foxconn said.

Searches for the term “Foxconn” on Chinese social media now yield few results, indicating heavy censorship.

“Regarding violent behavior, the company will continue to communicate with employees and the government to prevent similar incidents from happening again,” Foxconn said in a statement in Chinese.

The Zhengzhou facility is the largest iPhone assembly site in the world. It typically accounts for about 50% to 60% of Foxconn’s global iPhone assembly capacity, according to Mirko Woitzik, global director of intelligence solutions at Everstream, a supplier of supply chain risk analytics.

Apple warned earlier this month of the disruption to its supply chain, saying customers will feel the impact.

“We now expect lower shipments of iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max than previously anticipated,” the tech giant said in a statement. “Customers will experience longer wait times to receive their new products.”

As of last week, the wait time for those models had reached 34 days in the US, according to a UBS report.

Public frustration has increased over China’s relentless zero-Covid policy, which continues to involve severe lockdowns and travel restrictions for nearly three years since the pandemic began.

Last week, that sentiment was displayed when footage on social media showed stranded Guangzhou residents tearing down barriers meant to confine them to their homes and taking to the streets in defiance of strictly enforced local orders.

— Michelle Toh, Simone McCarthy, Wayne Chang, Juliana Liu, and Kathleen Magremo contributed to this report.

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