Videos show hundreds of workers rioting at Apple's biggest iPhone making plant over China's draconian COVID-19 measures

Videos show hundreds of workers rioting at Apple's biggest iPhone making plant over China's draconian COVID-19 measures
A staff member wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) disinfects a factory at Industrial Park of Foxconn on November 6, 2022 in Zhengzhou, Henan Province of China.VCG/VCG via Getty Images
  • Online footage appears to show workers rioting at Foxconn's iPhone making plant in Zhengzhou, China.
  • The mass protests are the latest escalation of tensions over China's COVID-19 measures at the plant.

Videos on social media appear to show hundreds of workers clashing with security guards at Apple's biggest iPhone-making factory in China, as discontent erupts over draconian COVID-19 measures at the plant.


Workers at Foxconn's Zhengzhou plant can be seen swarming the factory grounds and charging guards wearing white hazmat suits.

Insider was unable to independently verify when or where the videos were taken.

The violent protests began early Wednesday Beijing time, Bloomberg reported, citing an unnamed witness at the factory who also sent clips of the incident to the outlet. According to the outlet, one video shows guards beating a person on the ground with sticks.

The riots occurred over unpaid wages and workers' concerns that they would be infected by COVID-19, the witness told Bloomberg. Authorities deployed anti-riot police to restore order, the witness also said, according to Bloomberg.


One livestream showed clouds of smoke being dispensed from a police vehicle, as a person shouted that tear gas and smoke bombs had been deployed, Agence France-Presse reported.

In a statement to Insider titled "regarding social media videos of unrest in Zhengzhou," Foxconn said it would work to "prevent similar incidents" of violence in the future.

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

It added that some of its new hires at the Zhengzhou facility raised concerns about work allowances, which the company said have "always been fulfilled." Foxconn also said online speculation that infected employees are living at its Zhengzhou dormitories are "patently untrue."

Apple did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.


At the start of October, Foxconn's Zhengzhou plant employed around 200,000 workers, many of whom come from rural villages and towns but live in company-run dormitories.

Tensions at the plant have repeatedly flared over the last month as the facility struggled to quell a COVID outbreak in accordance with China's strict zero-COVID policy.

The southern Chinese city of Guangzhou also saw unrest over coronavirus restrictions, with crowds marching on the streets and breaking down quarantine barriers on November 15. The protests were concentrated in the Haizhu district, where many residents are poorer laborers concerned of food shortages and rising prices as they were barred from work, per the BBC.

Tensions have been brewing at the Zhengzhou plant since October

Foxconn said on October 26 that its Zhengzhou plant was dealing with a COVID outbreak, per the South China Morning Post. Other districts in Zhengzhou city were also fighting outbreaks, and locked down as well.

Throughout this period, the plant adopted a "closed loop system," under which workers are transported directly from their dormitories to the factory and back. The system allows the plant to keep running while attempting to stamp out the coronavirus.


However, these lockdown-like conditions severely restrict the movements of workers, barring them from dining at cafeterias and even requiring some to sleep on factory floors.

On October 31, videos emerged of workers fleeing the factory due to food shortage concerns and discontent over the curbs. Reuters reported that developments at Foxconn's plant could cut its iPhone production by 30% ahead of the holiday season. The Zhengzhou factory makes the majority of Apple's global iPhone shipments.

Foxconn later denied claims on social media that several of its workers died from COVID-19 at the plant, calling footage of protesting workers "maliciously edited." The company temporarily raised wages and increased bonuses for workers in a bid to entice them to return.

Provincial authorities also asked retired soldiers and government workers from neighboring cities to work at the Zhengzhou plant, saying they can receive their current salaries and additional wages from the factory, Reuters reported on November 16.

November 23, 2022: This story was updated to reflect comment from Foxconn.