Los Angeles Times

Chinese workers at protest are beaten

Police crack down as a dispute over pay roils biggest iPhone factory.


BEIJING — Police beat workers protesting over a pay dispute at the biggest factory for Apple’s iPhone, whose new model is delayed by controls imposed as China tries to contain a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Foxconn, the biggest contract assembler of smartphone­s and other electronic­s, is struggling to fill orders for the iPhone 14 after thousands of employees walked away from the factory in the east-central city of Zhengzhou last month following complaints about unsafe working conditions.

China’s status as an export powerhouse is based on factories such as Foxconn’s that assemble the world’s consumer electronic­s, toys and other goods.

The ruling Communist Party 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,” under which workers live in their factories with no outside contact.

Foxconn offered higher pay to attract more workers to the Zhengzhou factory to assemble the iPhone 14, whose price starts at $799 in the United States.

On Tuesday, a protest erupted after employees who had traveled long distances to take jobs at the factory complained that the company changed terms of their pay, according to an employee, Li Sanshan.

Li said he quit a catering job when he saw an advertisem­ent promising about $3,500 for two months of work. That would be a significan­t hike over average pay for this type of work in the area.

After employees arrived, the company said they had to work two additional months at lower pay to receive the $3,500, Li said.

“Foxconn released very tempting recruiting offers, and workers from all parts of the country came, only to find they were being made fools of,” he said.

Videos online showed thousands of people in masks facing rows of police in white protective suits with plastic riot shields. Police kicked and hit a protester with clubs after he grabbed a metal pole that had been used to strike him. People who recorded the footage said it was filmed at the site.

The protests in Zhengzhou come as the Communist Party faces rising frustratio­n about restrictio­ns in areas across China that have closed shops and offices and confined millions of people to their homes.

That has boiled over into protests in some cities. Videos on social media show residents tearing down barricades set up to enforce neighborho­od closures.

The ruling party promised this month to try to reduce disruption­s by shortening quarantine­s and making other changes. But the party is sticking to a “zeroCOVID” strategy that aims to isolate every case while other government­s relax controls and try to live with the virus.

The protest in Zhengzhou lasted through Wednesday morning as thousands of workers gathered outside dormitorie­s and confronted factory security workers, Li said.

Apple Inc. did not immediatel­y respond to a request for comment.

The company earlier warned that iPhone 14 deliveries would be delayed after access to an industrial zone around the Zhengzhou factory, which Foxconn says employs 200,000 people, was suspended after outbreaks.

Other videos showed protesters spraying fire extinguish­ers toward police.

A man who identified himself as a party official was shown in a video urging protesters to withdraw.

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