Protests break out at Covid-hit iPhone factory in China | China

Large-scale protests broke out at Foxconn’s vast iPhone factory in Zhengzhou, central China, images circulating on Weibo and Twitter appeared to show.

Videos on Wednesday showed hundreds of workers marching on a road in daylight, with some being confronted by a row of riot police and people in hazmat suits.

Some videos showed workers complaining about the food they had been provided while others said they had not been paid bonuses as promised.

One clip taken from a livestream showed dozens of workers at night shouting, “Defend our rights! Defend our rights!” as they confronted a row of police officers and a police vehicle with flashing lights, according to news agency AFP.

As clouds of smoke billowed from the vehicle, one worker dragged a metal barricade along the ground, with the streamer saying in the background: “They are rushing in! Smoke bombs! Tear gas!,” AFP said.

One photo taken during the day showed the charred remains of a gate, apparently burned down during the night.

Reuters was not immediately able to verify the authenticity of the videos. Foxconn did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Weibo hashtag “Foxconn Riots” appeared to be censored online by Wednesday, while some text posts referencing large-scale protests at the Foxconn factory remained live.

The Zhengzhou plant is the world’s largest iPhone factory with some 200,000 workers.

Since late October, many workers have fled – their escapes captured on social media – as frustration mounts over treatment of employees and how Covid cases were being handled, including what they said were insufficient provisions of food.

In a bid to restore production, the manufacturer began a drive to convince workers to stay and to recruit more staff, promising higher per-hour salaries and bonuses.

The factory has maintained so-called closed-loop operations at the plant – a system in which staff live and work on-site isolated from the wider world – due to the Covid situation in Zhengzhou.

The curbs and discontent have hit production, prompting Apple to say earlier this month that it expected lower shipments of premium iPhone 14 models.

Reuters and Agence France-Presse contributed to this report

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