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Fear and anger inside the world’s largest iPhone factory, Foxconn

Workers at the world’s largest iPhone factory, run by Foxconn Technology Group in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou, have turned to social media for help amid strict pandemic control measures on campus that have been imposed since last week to curb a small Covid-19 outbreak.

Workers shared texts, photos and videos of chaotic scenes and voiced their anger on platforms including microblogging site Weibo and TikTok’s Chinese version Douyin, with many raising concerns that cases may have been under-reported, putting employees at high risk of infections.

Foxconn, also known as Hon Hai Technology Group, confirmed on Wednesday that a small number of workers on the Zhengzhou campus were affected by Covid-19, but said that production remained “relatively stable”, without elaborating.

The company said on Thursday it had no further information to provide about the situation inside its Zhengzhou facilities.

It is unknown how many positive cases have been found on the campus, which has been sealed off to maintain operations in a “production bubble”, or how many Foxconn workers are under quarantine. Henan’s provincial health authorities said on Thursday they recorded 25 new cases, 20 of them asymptomatic, all located in Zhengzhou – the provincial capital.

The struggles experienced on the Foxconn campus, which has nearly 300,000 workers, reflect the challenge for the Chinese government as it seeks to meet economic targets while maintaining zero tolerance for any Covid outbreaks.

While the company has been offering an additional daily allowance of 50 yuan (US$7) for workers who show up at work to ensure timely delivery of Apple’s new iPhone 14 series, employees have also been told to follow strict rules, including taking fixed routes in commuting between dormitories and their workplaces.

On the internet, workers have complained about poor food quality. Dining halls on campus have been shut down since last week and workers have to take boxed meals back to their dormitories. Meals were sometimes not delivered on time, according to two workers on site, who confirmed the authenticity of some of the social media posts.

Another worker, who was tested positive last week, has been quarantined at a residential building around 3km away from the plant along with three other people. While one of them has had a fever for days, no one has received any medical care, according to the person, who was verified by the Post as a Foxconn worker.

A second worker said he was quarantined in his dorm with his roommates for three days after he was identified as a close contact of a positive case. When he returned to work on Thursday, he noticed a drastic decline in commuters to the factory, with around one-sixth of his team absent and under quarantine.

In photos and videos he shared with the Post, garbage can be seen piling up across the campus, where hundreds of workers were lining up for Covid testing and food. He said the company has been putting uninfected people and close contacts on the same shuttle buses and dorms, but workers can only “follow orders like a flock of sheep” because they are “afraid of getting bitten”.

There also appeared to be concerns that infections were spreading. A village in Jiaozuo, which neighbours Zhengzhou, has asked locals to report any Foxconn workers who had “fled the campus”, according to a villager who spoke with the Post on the phone but requested anonymity.
On Weibo, the topic page for Foxconn has been flooded with posts asking for help and attention. “The company left infected patients to stay in the dorm with their roommates … how can the factory protect our safety like this?” one post read.

“My wife is quarantined in her dorm in Foxconn, but she and her roommate have been having a fever for three days, and no one was there to deal with the situation,” another user commented. South China Morning Post

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