Chinese police have beaten workers protesting working conditions and pay at China’s biggest iPhone factory as the country tries to contain a rise in Covid-19 cases.
Videos online showed thousands of people in masks facing rows of police in white protective gear with plastic riot shields. Police kicked and beat a protester with batons after he grabbed a metal pole that had been used to beat him. The people who made the footage said they were filmed at the site.
The protest in Zhengzhou lasted until Wednesday morning as thousands of workers gathered outside dormitories and clashed with factory security guards, according to Li.
Other videos showed protesters spraying fire extinguishers towards police.
Foxconn, the largest contract assembler of smartphones and other electronics, is struggling to fill iPhone 14 orders after thousands of workers left the factory in the central city of Zhengzhou last month after complaints about unsafe working conditions.
The protests began on Tuesday after employees who had traveled long distances to take jobs at the factory complained that the company had changed the terms of their pay, according to employee Li Sanshan.
Li said he quit a restaurant job when he saw an advertisement promising 25,000 yuan ($3,500) for two months of work. This would be significantly higher than the average salary for this type of work in the region.
After the employees arrived, the company said they had to work an additional two months at lower wages to receive the 25,000 yuan, according to Li.
“Foxconn posted some very enticing job offers, and workers from all parts of the country came, only to find they were being ridiculed,” he said.
Foxconn said Thursday that a “technical error” was responsible for the pay confusion and issued an apology.
A man who identified himself as the Communist Party’s secretary for community services was shown in a video posted on social media platform Sina Weibo urging protesters to stand down. He assured them that their demands would be met.
The protests come amid severe frustration over Covid restrictions in parts of China that have closed shops and offices and confined millions to their homes.
On Wednesday, the government ordered an effective lockdown of several Zhengzhou neighborhoods, with downtown residents not allowed to leave unless they test negative for Covid and get permission from authorities.
The restrictions, which will last for five days from midnight Friday, affect more than six million people, about half of the city’s population.
The government is trying to contain the latest wave of outbreaks without shutting down factories and the rest of its economy as it did in early 2020. Its tactics include “closed-loop management” in which workers live in their factories without outside contact.
China’s status as an export powerhouse relies on factories such as Foxconn assembling consumer electronics, toys and other world goods.
Apple has warned iPhone 14 shipments will be delayed after access to an industrial zone around the Zhengzhou factory – which Foxconn says employs 200,000 people – was suspended after outbreaks.
The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the latest protests.
Reuters and Associated Press contributed to this report