Zhengzhou, China: Protesters at Foxconn factory clash with police, videos show

Beijing/Hong Kong

Workers at China’s largest iPhone assembly plant, some wearing riot gear, clashed with police on Wednesday, according to videos shared on social media.

Videos showed hundreds of workers, many wearing white protective suits, confronting law enforcement at Foxconn’s campus in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou. In the now-censored video, some protesters can be heard complaining about their wages and sanitary conditions.

A few days ago, Chinese state media reported that more than 100,000 people had signed up to fill advertised positions as part of a massive recruitment drive at Foxconn’s Zhengzhou factory.

Apple (AAPL) has been facing severe supply chain constraints at assembly plants, and iPhone 14 shipments are expected to take a hit at the start of the crucial holiday shopping season. CNN has reached out to the company for comment on the situation at the factory.

The COVID-19 outbreak forced the closure of the plant last month, reportedly causing some anxious factory workers to flee.

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In early November, videos of many people leaving Zhengzhou on foot went viral on Chinese social media, forcing Foxconn to take steps to bring employees back. To minimize the impact, the company said it had quadrupled daily bonuses for factory workers this month.

Workers were heard on video on Wednesday saying Foxconn failed to deliver on promises of attractive bonuses and pay packages after they arrived to work at the factory. A number of complaints have also been posted anonymously on social media platforms – accusing Foxconn of changing previously announced salaries.

Foxconn said in an English-language statement on Wednesday that after some new employees at the Foxconn campus in Zhengzhou appealed to the company on Tuesday over work allowances, “the allowances have been fulfilled in accordance with contractual obligations.”

Workers were also heard in the video complaining about inadequate anti-coronavirus measures, saying workers who tested positive were not separated from the rest of the workforce.

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In an English-language statement, Foxconn said online speculation about a Covid-positive employee living in a dormitory on the Foxconn campus in Zhengzhou was “patently untrue.”

Foxconn said: “Before new employees move in, the dormitory environment is disinfected according to standard procedures, and new employees can only move in after passing government inspection.”

A search for the term “Foxconn” on Chinese social media now yields few results, a sign of heavy censorship.

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

The Zhengzhou factory is the world’s largest iPhone assembly base. It typically accounts for 50% to 60% of Foxconn’s global iPhone assembly capacity, according to Mirko Woitzik, global director of supply chain risk analysis provider Everstream Intelligent Solutions.

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

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

According to a report from UBS, as of last week, the wait time for these models in the United States has reached 34 days.

Public frustration is mounting under China’s relentless zero-coronavirus policy, which continues to impose strict lockdowns and travel restrictions nearly three years into the pandemic.

That sentiment was on display last week, as images on social media showed residents of Guangzhou under lockdown removing barriers that were supposed 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 Magramo contributed to this report.


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