By Choekyi Lhamo
DHARAMSHALA, Nov. 25: Chinese police in Zhengzhou reportedly cracked down on workers as protests over working conditions and pay erupted at the biggest factory for iPhones on Tuesday. Similar protests took place in Beijing and Lhasa in the past months; online videos circulating showed thousands of people in masks facing the police in white protective suits with plastic shields, during a time the coronavirus cases tally the highest.
Some of the videos showed police kicking and hitting protesters with clubs and detaining them. The protests started after the factory changed the terms of employees’ pay after they had travelled long distances to take these jobs. Footage shared on live-streaming sites also showed workers shouting, “Defend our rights! Defend our rights!” Other workers were seen breaking surveillance cameras and windows with sticks. One worker during in the video said, “They changed the contract so that we could not get the subsidy as they had promised. They quarantine us but don’t provide food.”
The biggest contract assembler of smartphones and electronics, Foxconn was faced with problems filling orders for the new iPhone 14 after thousands of employees walked away from the company last month after complaints of unsafe working conditions. Foxconn is a Taiwanese firm, which is Apple’s main subcontractor and its Zhengzhou factory assembles more iPhones than anywhere else in the world. Apple warned that deliveries would be delayed after access to an industrial zone around the Zhengzhou factory was suspended after Covid outbreaks.
On Wednesday, the government ordered a lockdown of several districts in Zhengzhou with residents disallowed to leave unless they have a negative Covid test result and permission from local authorities. These protests come amidst severe frustrations from the public over restrictions as part of the Zero-Covid policy across China and occupied regions. The Beijing administration reported its highest number of new Covid cases on Thursday, with 31,444 new infections.