The protests took place at an iPhone manufacturing plant in Zhengzhou, central China, owned by Taiwanese tech giant Foxconn. The news agency AFP also reported that the protesters clashed with the police.

Last month, Foxconn closed the factory premises as the number of Covid-19 infections in China increased. Some of the workers ran away from there and went home. Later, the company hired new employees with the promise of a large bonus.

Footage shared on a livestreaming site showed prison staff chanting ‘Ensure our rights’ and some workers smashing surveillance cameras and windows with sticks. Several clippings also showed workers complaining about the food. Many also complained that they did not get the bonus as promised.

According to an AFP interview, workers were warned in early October that several people at the factory tested positive for the virus. All workers should wear masks. It was also announced that workers should continue to work despite fears of the spread of the virus.

The company employs more than 2 lakh people. Most of them live in workplace dormitories.

The factory went under lockdown in mid-October, with workers required to undergo daily tests and remain in virus-protected areas. But Foxconn insists the outbreak is limited and promises to provide ‘necessary guarantees’ for employees’ livelihoods.

But workers complain of poor working conditions and inadequate protection for those who are not infected. As a result, workers began fleeing factories in late October, many walking long distances back to their rural towns.

Videos circulating on social media showed some sitting on the side of the highway with luggage as officials in hazmat suits sprayed them with disinfectant. Meanwhile, the authorities put the area around the plant under lockdown in early November. As a result, reports of chaos and shortages kept pouring in.

Footage verified by AFP shows hundreds of workers marching through the streets in broad daylight. Some are clashing with riot police and people in hazmat suits.

Foxconn confirmed on Wednesday that the violence had occurred. They said the workers were unhappy about pay and conditions. However, they denied hiring new workers with Covid-positive workers.

(23 November)