Apple is in more trouble in China, where it faced more challenges as worker protests erupted at its biggest manufacturing partner Foxconn, weeks after Apple warned of production delays in China amid increasing COVID-19 restrictions.
According to videos shared over the past few days by Foxconn workers in Duyin, Kuizhou, hundreds of workers at the world’s largest iPhone factory in central China clashed with police. Some videos showed workers coming out of their dormitories and being beaten by security personnel.
Users were reminding each other not to film large crowds to circumvent censorship. One live broadcaster shouted to his audience, “Please help us get the word out and get us national headlines!” Dozens of live broadcasts showing the protest in real-time have been removed.
The protest appears to contain a number of triggers, including the denial of bonuses to workers for working in a pandemic environment and fears of staying in the same dorm with infected peers. The incident was the culmination of a weeks-long COVID outbreak at an iPhone factory in Zhengzhou as Foxconn tried to contain the spread of the virus while telling workers to stay on the production line ahead of the holiday season.
An outbreak of COVID at Foxconn’s Zhengzhou plant in late October, which normally houses around 200,000 workers, sent people fearing COVID fleeing on foot.
According to social media posts at the time, Foxconn tried to lure workers back with a salary increase. Local governments across Henan Province, where Zhengzhou is located, have been tasked with mobilizing residents to join Foxconn.
Apple is the only company that has been harmed by the ongoing “COVID-zero” containment policy in China. Many companies closed their factory, including Tesla, as it closed its factory in Shanghai several times as local cases rose. Similarly, automakers such as Volkswagen and Toyota halted production lines due to an outbreak in the northern city of Changchun earlier this year.