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China orders lockdown in Zhengzhou after worker protests at Foxconn iPhone plant

After dealing with frustration due to stringent Covid restrictions for over a month, hundreds of workers at Apple's main iPhone-making plant in China clashed with security.

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A group of people cross a downed fence following a protest at Foxconn's plant in Zhengzhou, China. (Screengrab)

By India Today Web Desk: Tension gripped China’s Foxconn iPhone plant after hundreds of workers clashed with security following a dangerous build-up in frustration with the country's ultra-severe Covid rules as well as inept handling of the situation by the world's largest contract manufacturer. China has ordered a Covid lockdown in Zhengzhou after the violent protests.

Residents have been advised not to leave their homes "unless necessary".

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The protests, which began early on Wednesday, were triggered by a plan to delay bonus payments, many of the demonstrators said on livestream feeds. The videos could not be immediately verified.

"Give us our pay!" chanted workers surrounded by people in full hazmat suits, some carrying batons, according to footage from one video. Other footage showed tear gas being deployed and workers taking down quarantine barriers. Some workers had complained they were forced to share dormitories with colleagues who had tested positive for Covid.

ALSO READ | Apple warns of hit due to iPhone shipments from China COVID disruption

Foxconn, formally called Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd, said in a statement it had fulfilled its payment contracts and that reports of infected staff living on campus with new recruits were "untrue."

"Regarding any violence, the company will continue to communicate with employees and the government to prevent similar incidents from happening again," the company added.

A source, who is well-versed with the situation in Zhengzhou, said production at the plant was unaffected by the worker unrest and output remained "normal".

Reuters earlier reported that iPhone output at the factory could slump by as much as 30 per cent in November, and that Foxconn aimed to resume full production there by the second half of the month. Apple Inc had warned it expects lower shipments of premium iPhone 14 models than previously anticipated.

While the latest unrest has added "uncertainties" to the target, the source said the company was still working hard to reach it, adding that "only a portion" of the new recruits took part in the unrest.

ALSO READ | Workers flee biggest iPhone factory in China due to Covid restrictions

A second source familiar with the matter, however, said Foxconn was unlikely to hit the target, pointing to disruptions caused by the unrest, impacting particularly new recruits who were hired to bridge the gap in the workforce.

"Originally, we were trying to see if the new recruits could go online by the end of November. But with the unrest, it's certain that we can't resume normal production by the month-end."

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Foxconn accounts for 70 per cent of iPhone shipments globally. It makes most of the phones at the Zhengzhou plant, though it has other smaller production sites in India and southern China.

Shares of Foxconn have slipped 2 per cent since the unrest emerged in late October.