Chinese police beat up workers protesting at iPhone factory as China's Covid-19 cases hit a record high

Workers were protesting against low pay and unsanitary conditions.

Ruth Chai | November 25, 2022, 06:37 PM

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Protests broke out at the world's largest iPhone assembly factory at Zhengzhou, China, on Wednesday (Nov. 25).

In videos circulating on Twitter, groups of workers can be seen clashing with the local police, dressed in white hazmat suits. After tearing apart the barricades, the angry crowd even used the objects to attack them.

The sheer force from the rioters forced the police to retreat, even though the police were armed with riot gear in an attempt to fend off outraged workers.

Workers were also seen wielding objects such as chairs to damage property on the compounds.

In some video clips, the police, in an attempt to crack down on the riots, were even seen beating up the angry workers with batons or kicking them into submission.

The videos were not independently verified.

Poor pay and unhygienic working conditions

The workers were protesting over poor pay and unsanitary working conditions, The Guardian reported.

According to the BBC, workers were also unhappy over how they were potentially exposed to staff who had tested positive for the virus.

Just days before, Chinese media had reported that more than 100,000 people had signed up to fill positions advertised as part of a massive recruitment drive held for Foxconn’s Zhengzhou plant to fulfil supply constraints.

The protests reportedly started on Tuesday, Nov. 24, and lasted through the next day.

These protests come at a time when China's domestic Covid-19 cases have hit a daily high. The Chinese government, which is sticking to its zero-Covid policy, despite its unpopularity among the people, has enforced numerous lockdowns on entire neighbourhoods and cities, heightening a sense of distress and anger amongst citizens.

The snap lockdowns have also caused many to flee from factories, disrupting supply chains through manpower constraints.


The onset of the holiday shopping season had put further strain on Apple's supply chain, following the release of iPhone 14.

A Covid outbreak last month had forced the assembly plant in Zhengzhou to lock down, leading some anxious factory workers to reportedly flee. Others reportedly walked away due to unsafe working conditions.

Foxconn, the biggest contract assembler of smartphones and other electronics, struggled to fill orders for the iPhone 14, forcing them to quadruple daily bonuses for workers at the plant this month in attempt to limit the fallout.

Enticed by the increased salary, many dropped their current jobs to work at the plant. The Guardian reported that the salary promised was RMB$25,000 (S$3,500) for two months of work. This amount was significantly higher than the average pay in the area.

However, when the employees joined, the company apparently reneged on its promise, and claimed that the workers had to work two additional months at lower pay in order to receive the said salary, thus partly leading to the mass protests.

Foxconn's response

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Foxconn said that “the allowance has always been fulfilled based on contractual obligation”.

Foxconn also told the BBC that the payment issue was due to a "technical error", and that the issue has since been resolved.

Workers have reportedly received a portion of the promised increased salary, and are set to receive the remaining amount soon.

The protests have also reportedly been quelled.

Foxconn also dismissed the claims regarding unsanitary working conditions, saying that the dormitories always undergo sanitisation processes and government checks before new employees move in.

Supply disruptions

Before the protests, Apple announced that the Covid-19 restrictions have temporarily impacted the supply of iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max.

This was due to the Zhengzhou factory, which primarily produced these two models, operating at a reduced capacity. Access to an industrial zone around the Zhengzhou factory – which Foxconn says employs 200,000 people – was suspended after outbreaks.

Therefore, customers are to expect longer wait times for the products.

It is unclear if the protests will further disrupt the wait time for these Apple products.

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Top photo via Twitter