Videos and reports show a worker-led protest getting underway early Wednesday morning in one of Apple’s main arteries of iPhone manufacturing in Zhengzhou, China, Bloomberg reported.
The protests took place over concerns about wages not reaching workers and fears of contracting the coronavirus during a factory campus lockdown, an anonymous source told the outlet.
Called “iPhone City,” Apple’s factory in Zhengzhou, China, is responsible for producing about half of the company’s iPhones, according to the company. New York Times.
At the same time, Xi Jinping’s government in China has introduced a “COVID Zero” policy that includes sweeping lockdowns where there are outbreaks. This has been a sore point for citizens, who in the spring, for example, complained in Shanghai about a lack of access to food and supply chains, who were rocked to their foundations by the factory disruptions.
Related: Apple says COVID-19 restrictions in China will delay iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max
At this plant in particular, tensions between the plant operator, Taiwan-based Foxconn Technology Group, and its employees are reportedly already on the rise. People working at the plant reportedly left on foot in October, concerned about the strict lockdown policies amid an outbreak at the plant. Reuters then reported that Foxconn was offering bonuses for people to come back.
The factory has been operating in a sort of “COVID bubble” for weeks, Bloomberg noted.
It is unclear what exactly the problems with the payment that arose on Wednesday are true. Foxconn did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but told Bloomberg employees who had returned to criticize the bonus policy. The company claimed to the outlet that it was following its contractual agreements regarding wages.
“With regard to the violence, we continue to communicate with workers and the government to prevent a recurrence,” the company told Bloomberg.
Videos showed what appeared to be hundreds of workers physically pushing aside guards in white outfits, who in one video beat a worker with sticks.
Workers also shouted “fight, fight,” the outlet wrote. In another video of an uncertain date, workers with a supervisor appear to be criticizing the lack of COVID test results.
“You’re sending us to our deaths,” said one person in the video, according to the outlet.
Others posted videos from the event:
The world’s largest iPhone factory was rocked by violence as police beat workers with batons during protests at Foxconn’s factory in Zhengzhou, China #WSJWhatsNow https://t.co/4pVeHfrs2Q pic.twitter.com/ISa59OVaXn
— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) November 23, 2022
This factory has a history of intense working conditions, with suicides reported at the factory in 2013.
Apple also previously said that due to China’s zero-covid policy, holiday shipments of 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max models would be delayed. This episode further emphasized the tensions between the virus and working conditions.
Barry Naughton, a professor at the University of California San Diego who studies China, told Bloomberg, “The tension is that Beijing wants both Covid Zero and full economic growth… It’s kind of impossible.”
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.