BEIJING (AP) – Police beat workers protesting a wage dispute at Apple’s largest iPhone factory, whose new model is delayed by controls imposed as China tries to contain a surge in COVID-19 cases .
Foxconn, the largest contract assembler of smartphones and other electronics, is struggling to fill orders for the iPhone 14 after thousands of employees left the factory in the central city of Zhengzhou last month following complaints about working conditions. unsafe work.
China’s status as an exporting power rests on factories like Foxconn’s that assemble the world’s consumer electronics, toys and other goods.
The ruling Communist Party is trying to contain the latest wave of outbreaks without shutting down factories and the rest of its economy as it did in early 2020. Its tactics include “closed-loop management”, under which the workers live in their factories without any outside contact.
Foxconn has offered higher pay to attract more workers to the Zhengzhou factory to assemble the iPhone 14, which retails for as low as $799 in the US.
A protest erupted on Tuesday after employees who had traveled long distances to take a job at the factory complained that the company changed the terms of their pay, according to an employee, Li Sanshan.
Li said he quit a catering job when he saw an ad promising 25,000 yuan ($3,500) for two months of work. That would be a significant increase over the average pay for this type of work in the area.
After the employees arrived, the company said they would have to work another two months on lower pay to receive the 25,000 yuan, according to Li.
“Foxconn has released very tempting recruiting offers and workers have come from all over the country, only to find they are being duped,” he said.
Online videos showed thousands of people in masks facing lines of policemen in white protective suits with plastic riot shields. Police kicked and hit a protester with sticks after he grabbed a metal pole that was used to beat him. The people who shot the footage said it was filmed at the site.
The protests in Zhengzhou come as the ruling Communist Party faces growing frustration with restrictions in areas of China that have closed shops and offices and confined millions to their homes.
This has resulted in protests in some cities. Videos on social media show residents tearing down barricades set up to enforce neighborhood closures.
The ruling party vowed this month to try to reduce disruptions by shortening quarantines and making other changes. But the party is sticking to a “zero-COVID” strategy that aims to isolate each case as other governments ease controls and try to live with the virus.
The protest in Zhengzhou lasted until Wednesday morning when thousands of workers gathered outside dormitories and confronted factory security workers, according to Li.
Apple Inc. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The company had previously warned that iPhone 14 deliveries would be delayed after access to an industrial zone around the Zhengzhou factory, which Foxconn says employs 200,000 people, was suspended following outbreaks.
Other videos showed protesters spraying fire extinguishers at police.
A man who identified himself as the Communist Party secretary in charge of community services was shown in a video posted on social media platform Sina Weibo urging protesters to withdraw. He assured them that their requests would be met.
Foxconn, which is headquartered in New Taipei City, Taiwan, said its contractual obligation on payments “has always been met.”
The company denied what it said were online comments that employees with the virus were living in dormitories at the Zhengzhou factory. He said the facilities had been sanitized and passed government inspections before employees moved out.
“As regards 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 flared as the number and severity of outbreaks have increased across China, prompting authorities in areas including Beijing, the capital, to close neighborhoods and impose other restrictions that residents say go beyond what the national government allows.
More than 253,000 cases have been reported in the past three weeks and the daily average is rising, the government said on Tuesday. This week, authorities reported the first COVID-19 deaths in China in six months.
On Wednesday, the government reported 28,883 cases found in the past 24 hours, including 26,242 without symptoms. Henan province and Zhengzhou, the provincial capital, reported 851.
The government will enforce its anti-COVID policy while “resolutely overcoming the mentality of paralysis and laxity,” said a spokesman for the National Health Commission, Mi Feng.
The Guangzhou city government, the site of the biggest outbreaks, announced it had opened 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 found there. The capital has previously closed shopping malls and office buildings and suspended access to some apartment complexes.