Protesting workers beaten at Chinese iPhone factory

BEIJING (AP) — Police beat workers protesting a pay dispute at Apple’s biggest iPhone factory, whose new model is being held up by controls imposed as China tries to contain a rise in cases of COVID-19.

Foxconn, the largest contract assembler of smartphones and other electronics, is struggling to fulfill iPhone 14 orders after thousands of workers left the factory in the central city of Zhengzhou last month in following complaints about unsafe working conditions.

China’s status as an export powerhouse relies on factories such as Foxconn assembling consumer electronics, toys and other world goods.

The ruling Communist Party is trying to contain the latest wave of epidemics without shutting down factories and the rest of its economy as it did in early 2020. Its tactics include “closed-loop management,” in which workers live in their factories without outside. Contact.

Foxconn offered a higher salary to attract more workers to the Zhengzhou factory to assemble the iPhone 14, which retails from $799 in the United States.

On Tuesday, a protest erupted after employees who had traveled long distances to take jobs at the factory complained that the company had changed the terms of their pay, according to employee Li Sanshan.

Li said he quit a restaurant job when he saw an advertisement promising 25,000 yuan ($3,500) for two months of work. This would be a significant increase over the average salary for this type of work in the region.

After the employees arrived, the company said they had to work an additional two months at lower wages to receive the 25,000 yuan, according to Li.

“Foxconn posted some very enticing job offers, and workers from all parts of the country came, only to find they were being ridiculed,” he said.

Videos online showed thousands of people in masks facing rows of police in white protective gear with plastic riot shields. Police kicked and beat a protester with batons after he grabbed a metal pole that had been used to beat him. The people who shot the footage said they were shot at the site.

The protests in Zhengzhou come as the ruling Communist Party faces growing frustration over restrictions in parts of China that have closed shops and offices and confined millions of people to their homes.

This turned into protests in some cities. Videos on social media show residents tearing down barricades set up to enforce neighborhood closures.

The ruling party pledged this month to try to reduce disruption by shortening quarantines and making other changes. But the party is sticking to a “zero-COVID” strategy that aims to isolate every case while other governments ease controls and try to live with the virus.

The protest in Zhengzhou lasted until Wednesday morning as thousands of workers gathered outside dormitories and clashed with factory security guards, according to Li.

Apple Inc. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The company previously warned iPhone 14 shipments would be delayed after access to an industrial zone around the Zhengzhou plant, which Foxconn says employs 200,000 people, was suspended following outbreaks. .

Other videos showed protesters spraying fire extinguishers towards police.

A man who identified himself as the Communist Party’s secretary for community services was shown in a video posted on social media platform Sina Weibo urging protesters to stand down. He assured them that their demands would be met.

Foxconn, headquartered in New Taipei City, Taiwan, said its contractual obligation regarding payments “has always been fulfilled.”

The company denied what it said were online comments that employees infected with the virus were living in dormitories at the Zhengzhou plant. He said the facilities were sanitized and passed government checks before employees moved in.

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

Protests have erupted due to the number and severity of outbreaks has increased across China, prompting authorities in areas such as the capital Beijing to close neighborhoods and impose other restrictions that residents say go beyond what the national government allows.

More than 253,000 cases have been discovered in the past three weeks and the daily average is rising, the government reported on Tuesday. This week, authorities reported the first deaths from COVID-19 in China in six months.

On Wednesday, the government reported 28,883 cases discovered in the past 24 hours, including 26,242 without symptoms. Henan province and Zhengzhou, the provincial capital, reported 851.

The government will carry out its anti-COVID policy while “resolutely overcoming the mindset of paralysis and laxity”, said a spokesperson for the National Health Commission, Mi Feng.

The city government of Guangzhou, the site of the biggest outbreaks, has announced the opening of 19 temporary hospitals with a total of nearly 70,000 beds for coronavirus patients. The city last week announced plans to build hospitals and quarantine facilities for 250,000 people.

Also on Wednesday, Beijing opened a hospital at an exhibition center and suspended access to Beijing International Studies University after a case of the virus was discovered there. The capital has previously closed shopping malls and office buildings and suspended access to some apartment complexes.

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Zen Soo reported from Hong Kong. Caroline Chen, AP press assistant, contributed.

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