Workers at the world’s biggest Apple iPhone factory were beaten and detained in protests over pay amid anti-virus controls, as tensions mounted over Chinese efforts to combat a renewed rise in infections.

Hundreds of workers may be seen marching down a road in daylight in videos posted on Weibo and Twitter that AFP has confirmed. Some of the workers are being confronted by riot police and those wearing hazmat suits.

A man with blood on his face was shown in a nighttime video as someone off-camera yelled, “They’re striking people, hitting people. Do they possess morals? Geolocation data that displayed recognisable features, such as a building and barricades close to staff housing on the factory compound, helped AFP verify that video in part.

RELATED STORIES

In another video, testing booths for Covid-19 were destroyed, and a car was on its side.

In one daytime video, a loudspeaker could be heard stating, “All workers kindly return to their lodging, do not mix with a small minority of unlawful elements,” as multiple fire trucks were parked near residential buildings and were encircled by police wearing hazmat suits.

ADVERTISEMENT

Wide swaths of the population in China have grown weary and resentful as a result of the country’s relentless zero-Covid policy; some have spent weeks being locked up in industries and universities or unable to leave their homes.

By Wednesday noon, the Weibo hashtag “Foxconn riots” appeared to be blocked, but some text posts discussing extensive demonstrations at the factory were still accessible.

Requests for comment on the most recent unrest from AFP went unanswered from Foxconn or Apple.

In the place of the fleeing workers, the firm has offered large bonuses and other incentives for employees who stayed as the local government bussed in fresh labourers in a bid to keep the factory afloat.

Apple this month admitted the lockdown had “temporarily impacted” production ahead of the holiday season at the Zhengzhou factory, the Taiwanese company’s crown jewel that churns out iPhones in quantities not seen anywhere else.

Foxconn is China’s biggest private sector employer, with over a million people working across the country in about 30 factories and research institutes.

China is the last major economy wedded to a strategy of extinguishing Covid outbreaks as they emerge, imposing lockdowns, mass testing and lengthy quarantines despite the widespread disruption to businesses and international supply chains.

The policy has sparked sporadic protests throughout China, with residents taking to the street in several major Chinese cities to vent their anger against snap lockdowns and business closures.