China’s ‘iPhone City’ during COVID lockdown after violent clashes

Six million people were under the COVID lockdown in a Chinese city home of the world’s largest iPhone factory on Friday after clashes between police and workers angry over pay.

Authorities have ordered residents of eight districts in Zhengzhou, central Henan Province, not to leave the area for the next five days, erected barriers around “high-risk” residential buildings and set up checkpoints to restrict travel.

There are only a few corona cases in the city.

The orders follow protests by hundreds of workers over conditions and payments at Foxconn’s massive iPhone factory on the outskirts, with new images of rallies emerging on Friday.

Video footage posted to social media and geolocated by AFP showed a large group of people walking down a street in the east of the city, some with signs.

“So many people,” a man is heard saying. AFP could not verify exactly when the protests took place.

And after dozens of workers walked out of Foxconn’s plant Thursday with payouts of 10,000 yuan ($1,400), posts in Chinese short-video apps Douyin and Kuaishou said the Taiwanese tech giant turned down many of the thousands of people who turned up his job ads had responded after a series of departures in October.

Many of those who have arrived to fill newly vacant positions at the factory are now stuck in quarantine hotels outside the factory, several workers told AFP.

“We are in a quarantine hotel and have no way of going to the Foxconn campus,” said a worker who asked to remain anonymous.

Another staff member said those who were turned away were promised 10,000 yuan in compensation for the quarantine, but received only a fraction of that amount.

“They won’t let us start work and we can’t go back home, Zhengzhou is in lockdown,” a worker who was quarantined in the nearby city of Ruzhou after being promised a job at Foxconn told AFP .

He added that there have been several small-scale protests in other Henan cities by Foxconn workers who have been quarantined and unable to start work.

The unrest in Zhengzhou comes amid growing public frustration at the government’s zero-tolerance approach to COVID, which is forcing local authorities to impose grueling lockdowns, travel restrictions and mass testing.

With China’s daily case count of 33,000 as of Friday – a record for the country of 1.4 billion – the relentless zero-COVID push has sparked sporadic protests and hurt productivity in the world’s second-largest economy.

In Guangzhou’s southeast manufacturing hub, millions of people have been told not to leave their homes without testing negative for the virus.

Social media footage released on Friday and geolocated by AFP showed residents of Haizhu District dismantling barricades and throwing items at police while wearing riot gear.

“What are you doing? What are you doing?” A police officer holding a shield is heard asking as he and his colleagues back away from the projectiles.

© 2022 AFP

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