Workers are protesting, and have been beaten up at the virus-hit Chinese iPhone factory

BEIJING (AP) — Employees at the world’s largest Apple iPhone factory were beaten and detained in wage protests amid anti-virus controls, according to witnesses and videos on social media Wednesday, as tensions rose over Chinese efforts to combat a renewed increase in injuries. .

Videos said to have been filmed at the factory in the central city of Zhengzhou showed thousands of people in masks facing rows of policemen in white protective suits with plastic riot shields. Police kicked and beat a protester with batons after he grabbed a metal pole that was used to beat him.

Frustration with restrictions across China that have closed shops and offices and confined millions of people to their homes has boiled over into protests. Videos on social media show residents tearing down barricades erected to enforce neighborhood lockdowns.

The ruling Communist Party promised this month to try to reduce unrest by shortening the quarantine and making other changes. But the party is sticking to a “zero COVID” strategy that aims to isolate each case while other governments ease controls and try to live with the virus.

Last month, thousands of employees left an iPhone factory run by Taiwan’s Foxconn Technology Group due to complaints about unsafe working conditions in the wake of virus cases.

An outcry erupted on Tuesday over complaints Foxconn changed conditions for new workers attracted by offers of higher salaries, according to Li Sanshan, an employee.

Li said he quit the catering job in response to the ad, which promised 25,000 yuan ($3,500) for two months of work. Li, 28, said the workers were angry after they were told they had to work two more months for less to earn 25,000 yuan.

“Foxconn issued very attractive employment offers, and workers came from all over the country, only to find that they had become fools,” Lee said.

Headquartered in New Taipei City, Taiwan, Foxconn said in a statement that the “labor allowance” has “always been fulfilled on the basis of contractual obligation.”

Foxconn denied what it said were comments online that infected employees were living in dormitories at the Zhengzhou factory. It said the facilities were disinfected and subjected to government checks before employees moved in.

“Regarding any violence, the company will continue to communicate with employees and the government to prevent similar incidents from occurring again,” the company’s statement read.

Protests flared up as the number and severity of outbreaks grew across China, prompting authorities in regions including the capital, Beijing, to lock down neighborhoods and impose other restrictions that residents say go beyond what the national government allows.

More than 253,000 cases have been found in the past three weeks and the daily average is increasing, the government said on Tuesday. This week, the authorities reported the first COVID-19 death in China in six months.

On Wednesday, the government reported 28,883 cases found in the past 24 hours, including 26,242 asymptomatic cases. Henan Province, of which Zhengzhou is the capital, recorded 851 in total.

National Health Commission spokesperson Mi Feng said the government will implement its anti-COVID policy while “resolutely overcoming the mentality of paralysis and indolence”.

The city government of Guangzhou, the site of the largest outbreak, announced that it had opened 19 temporary hospitals with a total of nearly 70,000 beds for coronavirus patients. Last week, the city announced plans to build hospitals and quarantine facilities for about 250,000 people.

Also on Wednesday, Beijing opened a hospital in an exhibition center and suspended access to Beijing University of International Studies after a viral case was detected there. The capital earlier closed shopping malls and office buildings and suspended entry to some apartment complexes.

Foxconn said earlier that its Zhengzhou factory uses “closed-loop management,” which means employees live at their workplace without any outside contact.

The protest continued into Wednesday morning as thousands of workers gathered outside dormitories and confronted factory security workers, according to Lee.

Other videos showed protesters spraying fire extinguishers at the police.

A man who identified himself as the Communist Party secretary in charge of community services appeared in a video posted on social media platform Sina Weibo urging protesters to withdraw. He assured them that their demands would be met.

Apple Inc. warned. Delivery of the new iPhone 14 model has been delayed due to disease control controls at the factory. The city government has suspended access to the industrial park that surrounds the plant, which Foxconn said employs 200,000 people.

News reports said that the ruling party ordered “people’s cadres” to fill in the departed Foxconn employees in Zhengzhou. The company did not respond to requests for confirmation and details regarding this arrangement.

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Zen Soo reported from Hong Kong. AP news associate Carolyn Chen contributed.

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