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

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

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

There have been only a handful of cases of coronavirus in the city.

The orders follow protests by hundreds of workers over conditions and wages at Foxconn’s large iPhone factory on the outskirts of the city, with fresh images of demonstrations emerging on Friday.

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

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

And after scores of workers left the factory on Thursday with 10,000 yuan ($1,400) payouts from Foxconn, posts on Chinese video card apps Douyin and Kuaishou said the Taiwanese tech giant turned away many of the thousands of people who had responded to their job ads after a series of departures in October.

Many of those who have arrived to take new 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 to go to the Foxconn campus,” said one worker who asked to remain anonymous.

Another employee said those rejected had been promised 10,000 yuan in compensation for being forced into quarantine, but only received a fraction of that amount.

“They won’t let us start work and we can’t return home, Zhengzhou is locked down,” a worker forced into quarantine in the nearby city of Ruzhou, after being promised employment at Foxconn, told AFP.

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

The unrest in Zhengzhou comes against a backdrop of growing public frustration over the government’s zero tolerance for Covid, forcing local authorities to impose grueling 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.

In the southeastern manufacturing hub of Guangzhou, millions of people have been ordered not to leave their homes without a negative virus test.

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

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


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