COVID-19 in China | Containment begins around iPhone city

(Beijing) The health confinement of six million people began Friday in a Chinese city that is home to the world’s largest iPhone factory, after violent clashes between employees and police over wages.

Authorities have ordered residents of eight districts in Zhengzhou, the capital of central Henan Province, not to leave the area for the next five days.

Barriers have been erected around high-risk residential buildings and movement checkpoints have been set up on the streets.

Only a few cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in this city of 12.6 million people.

The closure comes after violent protests by hundreds of workers this week at the Foxconn factory on the outskirts of the city, which employs more than 200,000 people and has been dubbed “iPhone City” because it is the world’s largest factory that makes the Apple phone.

New images of the protests circulated on social media on Friday, and their geolocation was verified by AFP. The picture shows a crowd walking in a street in the east of the city, and some people are carrying banners.

In this video, a man can be heard saying, “There are a lot of people.” It was not possible for AFP to verify the date of the demonstration.

Forced quarantine

Several disgruntled workers walked out of the factory, which has been closed since October due to an outbreak of COVID-19 cases, on Thursday for a 10,000 yuan ($1,850) bonus.

And again, after thousands responded to ads placed by Foxconn to be able to keep iPhone production going, they were put into solitary confinement before they could even enter the site, several employees told AFP.

HANGPAI XINGYANG PHOTO, associated press archives

“We are quarantined in a hotel and there is no way to access the Foxconn website,” said an employee who asked not to be identified.

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Another said those who were placed in quarantine were offered a 10,000 yuan reward in compensation, but only received a small part of that amount.

“They won’t let us start and we can’t go home because Zhengzhou is locked down,” an employee who was supposed to start working at Foxconn but found himself in quarantine in the neighboring city of Ruozhou told AFP.

According to him, several other demonstrations of Foxconn’s new employees, who have been quarantined and unable to start work, have taken place in other cities in Henan.

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Other videos uploaded on Friday and geo-tagged by AFP showed angry workers knocking on furniture and swearing at police in a hotel lobby in Nanyang, about 280 kilometers from Zhengzhou.

It appears that these employees have been isolated at this facility. In one of the videos, a man challenges netizens: “To all who are online: please share this!”.

The angry protests in the city of Zhengzhou came amid growing public discontent with China’s strict COVID-19 zero policy, which imposes frequent lockdowns, limits travel and requires people to be tested almost daily.

Image courtesy of AFPTV Teams, AFP

On Friday, the number of cases in China reached 33,000, a record high since the start of the pandemic, even if the number remains very modest for a country of 1.4 billion people in which the vast majority of cases are asymptomatic.

In the southeastern industrial city of Guangzhou, millions of people have been ordered not to leave their homes without testing negative.

Videos circulated on social media on Friday and geo-tagged by AFP showed residents of this town, in Hezhou district, dismantling barricades and throwing objects at police officers in full white protective suits.

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