Zhengzhou, China: Protesters at Foxconn 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.

The videos show hundreds of workers facing law enforcement officers, many in white hazmat suits, at the Foxconn campus in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou. In the recordings, which have now been blocked, some of the protesters could be heard complaining about pay and sanitary conditions.

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

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

A Covid outbreak last month had forced the site to shut down, prompting some anxious factory workers to reportedly flee.

Videos of many people leaving Zhengzhou on foot had gone viral on Chinese social media earlier in November, forcing Foxconn to step up measures to bring employees back. To try to contain the fallout, the company said it had quadrupled daily bonuses for workers at the plant this month.

On Wednesday, workers were heard in the video saying that Foxconn failed to honor the promise of an attractive bonus and salary package after they came to work at the plant. Numerous complaints have also been posted anonymously on social media platforms – accusing Foxconn of changing the pay packages previously announced.

In a statement in English, Foxconn said on Wednesday that “the allowance has always been fulfilled based on contractual obligation” after some new employees at the Foxconn campus in Zhengzhou appealed to the company about the labor allowance on Tuesday.

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

Foxconn said in the English statement that online speculation about Covid-positive employees living in dormitories at the Foxconn campus in Zhengzhou is “patently untrue.”

“Before new employees move in, the dormitory environment undergoes standard disinfection procedures, and it is only after the premises have passed government inspection that the new employees are allowed to move in,” Foxconn said.

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

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

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

Apple warned earlier this month about the disruption to its supply chain, saying customers would feel an impact.

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

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

Public frustration has risen under China’s relentless zero-Covid policy, which continues to involve strict lockdowns and travel restrictions nearly three years into the pandemic.

Last week, that sentiment was on display when social media footage showed residents under lockdown in Guangzhou 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 Magramo contributed to this report.

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