“Defend our rights”: Workers protest outside China’s largest iPhone factory

Large-scale protests erupted at Foxconn’s massive iPhone factory in Zhengzhou, central China, according to images circulating on Weibo and Twitter on Wednesday.

Videos showed hundreds of workers marching down a road in daylight, some facing a queue of people in safety suits and riot police.

Another clip from a livestream video showed dozens of workers confronting a row of police officers and a police vehicle with flashing lights at night, shouting, “Defend our rights! Defend our rights!”

A worker dragged a metal barricade across the ground, with the streamer in the background saying as clouds of smoke billowed from the vehicle, “They’re charging in! Smoke bombs! Tear gas!”

A photo taken during the day shows the charred remains of a gate that apparently burned down during the night.

The Weibo hashtag “Foxconn Riots” appeared to have been censored by Wednesday afternoon, while some text messages referring to large-scale protests at the Foxconn factory remained live.

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Foxconn, also known by its official name Hon Hai Precision Industry, is the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer, assembling gadgets for many international brands.

Foxconn, Apple’s main subcontractor, has seen a spate of Covid-19 cases at its Zhengzhou site in recent months, forcing the company to shut down the massive complex in an effort to contain the virus.

Panicking workers then fled the site en masse on foot after allegations of poor conditions at the factory, which employs hundreds of thousands of workers.

Foxconn is China’s largest private sector employer, employing more than one million people across the country in approximately 30 factories and research institutes.

Zhengzhou is the crown jewel of the Taiwanese company, producing iPhones in quantities not seen anywhere else.

The company did not immediately respond to an AFP request for comment on the unrest.