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Protests break out at Covid-hit iPhone factory in China

Social media videos showed large crowds clashing with hazmat-suited officials amid rising worker discontent at the Foxconn plant

Hundreds of workers joined protests at Foxconn‘s huge iPhone plant in China, with some men smashing surveillance cameras and windows, footage uploaded on social media showed.

The rare scenes of open dissent in China mark an escalation of unrest at the factory in Zhengzhou city that has come to symbolise a dangerous buildup in frustration with the country’s ultra-harsh Covid rules as well as inept handling of the situation by the world’s largest contract manufacturer.

The trigger for the protests, which began early on Wednesday, appeared to be a plan to delay bonus payments, many of the demonstrators said on livestream feeds. The videos could not be immediately verified by Reuters.

“Give us our pay!” chanted workers who were surrounded by people in full hazmat suits, some carrying batons, according to footage from one video. Other footage showed teargas being deployed and workers taking down quarantine barriers. Some workers had complained they were forced to share dormitories with colleagues who had tested positive for Covid-19.

Foxconn said in a statement it had fulfilled its payment contracts and that reports of infected staff living on campus with new recruits were untrue.

“Regarding any violence, the company will continue to communicate with employees and the government to prevent similar incidents from happening again,” the company added.

A source familiar with the situation in Zhengzhou said production at the plant was unaffected by the worker unrest and output remained normal.

Reuters has previously reported that Foxconn aimed to resume full production at the Zhengzhou iPhone plant by the second half of November.

While the latest unrest has added “uncertainties” to the target, the source said the company was still working hard to hit it, adding that “only a portion” of the new recruits took part in the unrest.

A second source familiar with the matter, however, said Foxconn was unlikely to hit the target, pointing to disruptions triggered by the unrest, particularly affecting new recruits who were hired to bridge the gap in the workforce.

“Originally, we were trying to see if the new recruits could go online by the end of November. But with the unrest, it’s certain that we can’t resume normal production by the month-end.”

Discontent over strict quarantine rules, the company’s inability to stamp out outbreaks and poor conditions including shortages of food had caused workers to flee the factory campus since the Apple supplier imposed a so-called closed-loop system at the world’s biggest iPhone plant in late October.

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Read the original article at The Guardian

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