Violent protests erupted at the world’s largest iPhone factory in central China on Wednesday as authorities try to contain an outbreak of Covid-19 and maintain production ahead of the Christmas period.
Videos released by workers at the factory, located in the city of Zhengzhou, Henan province, show employees clashing with police officers armed with batons and dressed in white protective suits. The images show police officers beating workers, among whom some appear bleeding from the head and others with a limp.
China’s zero-tolerance Covid-19 policy poses a challenge to the management of the factory owned by the Taiwanese group Foxconn, which employs, in a normal period, more than 200,000 workers in the suburbs of Zhengzhou.
The company confirmed in a statement that there were violent clashes on the premises.
The group, which assembles electronic products for many international brands, including the US-based Apple, said workers had complained about wage issues and poor working conditions.
The factory has seen an increase in cases of Covid-19 in recent weeks, imposing a ‘closed circuit’ work system. This means that workers are prohibited from leaving the premises.
Problems at the factory earlier this month prompted Apple to revise delivery dates for the latest-generation iPhone 14 and issue a rare warning to investors about delays.
Workers at the Foxconn factory said the protests began after the company refused to pay promised bonuses. The videos show workers overturning carts, entering the factory offices and destroying a cabin where Covid-19 detection tests are carried out.
Foxconn has been working with the provincial government of Henan, where the factory is located, to replenish its assembly lines with new workers after a Covid-19 outbreak led to a mass exodus of employees at the end of the last month.
Local authorities were tasked with helping to recruit workers for the factory, which accounted for 60% of exports. To maintain production, Foxconn also offered bonuses to remaining employees.