Factory workers at a Zhengzhou facility that produces Apple products rioted early Wednesday morning, clashing with security guards in an apparent revolt against the latest stringent COVID lockdown rules put in place since October.
For those unaware, Taiwanese company Foxconn, or Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. Ltd., is Apple’s largest supplier that employs about 200,000 people, and manufactures roughly 70% of the total iPhones sold globally.
The incident, which was first reported by Bloomberg, took place in the Foxconn plant in Zhengzhou, China, which is the main plant that manufactures iPhones.
In videos sent by eyewitnesses to Bloomberg, hundreds of workers at Foxconn’s Zhengzhou plant can be seen leaving their dormitories and crowding the grounds to clash with the security guards wearing white hazmat suits.
One clip showed guards beating a person on the ground with sticks, while the other one showed throngs of people charging past through barricades as onlookers chanted “fight, fight!”.
In another clip, dozens of workers at night can be seen confronting a row of police officers and a police vehicle, shouting, “Defend our rights! Defend our rights!”. At one point, several encircled an occupied police car and started rocking the vehicle while screaming incoherently.
The riots erupted overnight over unpaid wages and workers’ concerns about an infectious outbreak at the plant, an unnamed witness told Bloomberg. “I’m really scared about this place, we all could be Covid positive now,” the publication quoted a worker as saying.
One Foxconn employee told the BBC that workers were protesting because Foxconn had changed the contract they promised.
“They changed the contract so that we could not get the subsidy as they had promised. They quarantine us but don’t provide food. If they do not address our needs, we will keep fighting,” he said. “Those workers who are protesting are wanting to get a subsidy and return home.”
Several workers were injured in the clash before authorities deployed anti-riot police to restore order.
In late October, many workers reportedly fled the plant on foot amid increasing Covid cases, accusations of poor treatment of staff, and inadequate food rations. Foxconn hired new workers promising high wages and better working conditions.
In a statement to Business Insider titled “regarding social media videos of unrest in Zhengzhou,” Foxconn said it would work with staff and local government to “prevent similar incidents” of violence in the future.
“Regarding any violence, the company will continue to communicate with employees and the government to prevent similar incidents from happening again,” the statement read.
It added that some of its new hires at the Zhengzhou facility had doubts about pay, which the company said has “always been fulfilled.”
Foxconn also said rumors that new recruits were sharing dormitories with infected employees at its Zhengzhou facility are “patently untrue.”
Apple has yet to comment on the incident.