China’s ‘iPhone City’ under Covid lockdown after violent protests

Zhengzhou

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Six million people were on Friday under a Covid lockdown in a Chinese city that is home to the world’s largest iPhone factory, after clashes between police and workers over wages.

Authorities have ordered residents of eight districts of Zhengzhou city in central Henan province to stay away for the next five days, erect barriers around “high-risk” residential buildings and set up checkpoints to limit travel.

There are only a few cases of coronavirus in the city.

The orders come after hundreds of workers protested conditions and pay at Foxconn’s giant iPhone factory on the outskirts of the city, with fresh footage of the rallies emerging on Friday.

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

“So many people,” he is heard saying. AFP could not confirm when the protests took place.

After scores of workers left the factory Thursday after paying 10,000 yuan ($1,400) from Foxconn, posts on Chinese short video programs Douyin and Kuaishou said the Taiwanese tech giant had turned away more than thousands of people who responded to job ads. After many departures in October.

Many workers who came to fill newly vacant positions at the factory are now stuck in quarantine hotels outside the plant, multiple workers told AFP.

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

Another worker said returnees were promised 10,000 yuan in compensation for being forced into quarantine, but only received a fraction of that amount.

“They don’t allow us to start work and we can’t go home, Zhengzhou is under siege,” said one worker who was forced into quarantine in the nearby city of Ruzhou after being promised a job at Foxconn.

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

The unrest in Zhengzhou comes amid growing public frustration over the government’s zero-tolerance approach to Covid, which has forced local authorities to impose heavy lockdowns, travel restrictions and mass testing.

With China’s daily caseload at 33,000 on Friday — a record for the country of 1.4 billion — the relentless zero-Covid push has sparked sporadic protests and hit productivity in the world’s second-largest economy.

Millions of people in the manufacturing hub southeast of Guangzhou have been ordered not to leave their homes unless they test negative for the virus.

Social media footage released Friday and geolocated by AFP showed residents of the city’s Haizhu district tearing down barricades and throwing objects at police in hazmat suits.

“What are you doing? What are you doing?” A shield-wielding policeman can be heard asking as he and his colleagues walk away from the shells.

(AFP)