Workers Clash With Police At iPhone Factory In China

There have been violent protests at the world’s largest iPhone factory in central China. This is because officials at the Foxconn plant are trying to stop an outbreak of COVID-19 while keeping production up before the busy holiday season.

Workers shared more than a dozen videos at the Zhengzhou factory. The videos show staff in a standoff with lines of police with batons and white protective gear. In the videos, police can be seen beating workers. Some are bleeding from the head, and others are limping away from the chaos.

Beijing’s strict zero-COVID policy has made it hard to run Foxconn’s Zhengzhou plant, which has more than 200,000 workers on a large campus in the city’s suburbs. Since more than 95% of iPhones are made in China, Wednesday’s unrest will make investors worry even more about supply chain risk at Apple.

Workers clash with police at iPhone factory in China
Workers clash with police at iPhone factory in China

Because of problems at the plant at the beginning of the month, Apple lowered its estimates for the number of high-end iPhone 14s it would ship and sent a rare warning to investors about the delays.

Two workers at the Foxconn factory said the protests started Wednesday morning when Apple’s manufacturing partner tried to keep new workers from getting the bonuses they were promised while in quarantine. One of the workers said, “At first, they just went into the plant to ask the executives what was going on, but the executives didn’t show their faces and instead called the police.”

Another worker said that people were getting more upset about the factory’s inability to stop an outbreak of COVID, the challenging living conditions, and the fear that people would test positive.

Foxconn said it would work with its employees and the government to stop more acts of violence.

The company said it kept its contracts and would keep “communicating and explaining” them to new employees. It noted that rumors that the company had mixed COVID-positive workers with those who had not yet been infected were false.

Videos show workers on the Foxconn campus turning over carts, running into the factory’s offices, and smashing a COVID testing booth. Wednesday afternoon, live streams from the scene showed groups of workers moving around in a courtyard between two buildings. Some workers broadcast the protests live on social media until censors stopped them.

Shan Guo of Plenum China Research said, “The Foxconn situation worries China’s leaders because it goes against the idea that China is a reliable supplier.” She said, “It’s clear that workers don’t like being locked down.”

Foxconn has been working with the local government in Henan province, where the plant is located, to get new people to work on the assembly lines after many workers left the plant late last month because of the working conditions. The plant is a significant taxpayer and was responsible for 60% of the province’s exports in 2019. Local officials have been asked to help find workers for the plant.

Ivan Lam, an analyst at Counterpoint Research, said that Foxconn had already stopped making iPhone 14s at the Zhengzhou factory because of problems with COVID. He thought the Zhengzhou plant was driving about 60% of all iPhone 14s today, down from about 80% before the outbreak.

Apple didn’t answer right away when asked for a comment.

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