Violent protests have broken out around a huge factory in central China’s Zhengzhou, owned by Taiwanese tech giant Foxconn and the world’s largest manufacturer of iPhones, over Covid-19 restrictions and working conditions.
Here is a timeline of the events so far:
- Outbreak -
Workers are warned in early October that several people at the factory have tested positive for Covid-19, according to AFP interviews.
Employees are ordered not to remove face masks but must continue working, despite fears the virus would spread.
The facility in the city of Zhengzhou employs more than 200,000 people, many of whom live in dormitories on site.
- Lockdown -
The factory goes into lockdown in mid-October, with workers required to test daily and stay in a virus-secure bubble.
Foxconn insists the outbreak is limited and promises to provide “necessary guarantees" for employees’ livelihoods.
But complaints from workers soon begin to circulate, including allegations of poor working conditions and inadequate protections for those who are not infected.
- Exodus -
Workers begin fleeing the factory in late October, with many walking long distances back to their rural hometowns.
Videos on social media show some sitting with luggage by the side of highways as officials in hazmat suits spray them with disinfectant.
Authorities lock down the area around the plant in early November. Reports of chaos and shortages continue to emerge.
Apple warns that the virus restrictions will mean customers have to wait longer for new iPhones ahead of the holiday season.
- Violence -
Tensions at the facility erupt into violent demonstrations in late November, with photos and videos on Chinese social media showing workers scuffling with security personnel.
In footage verified by AFP, hundreds of employees are seen marching on a road in broad daylight. Some are confronted by riot police and people in hazmat suits.
Another clip from a livestream shows dozens of workers at night confronting a row of police officers and shouting: “Defend our rights!"
Other footage shows battered testing booths and at least one overturned vehicle, as well as a man with a bloodied face.
Foxconn confirms on Wednesday the violence has taken place, saying workers are unhappy about pay and conditions but denying it has housed new recruits with Covid-positive staff.
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