While most countries coexist with COVID and loosen restrictions to allow businesses and individuals to continue their normal activities, the Chinese regime imposes a strict Zero-COVID policy in an attempt to contain the pandemic.
Authorities use a strict and extreme approach to enforce Beijing’s COVID-controlled measures. Close contacts of a positive case are tracked down and transferred to quarantine sites. Residents are asked to stay in their homes, entire cities are locked down, factories and businesses are required to close, and entertainment venues and tourist spots are closed to the public.
Under Beijing’s Zero-COVID policies, factories are only allowed to operate if they apply “closed loop” measures, in which workers live and work on-site.
Such arrangements cause difficulties for businesses to operate normally.
Foxconn, Zhengzhou plant in China’s central province, Henan, is Apple’s largest iPhone assembler with 200,000 workers. And such arrangements cause difficulties for it to operate normally.
A person familiar with the situation on campus told Reuters that Foxconn wanted to maintain its production, so it had to follow government instructions. Accordingly, it had put workers in “miserable conditions.”
Foxconn prohibited workers from eating at canteens at the Zhengzhou plant on October 19 and asked them to have their meals in dormitories.
Then, much footage posted on Chinese social media showed workers suffering unbearable conditions in these facilities and scrambling for food.
These contrasted with the officially released footage of happy employees who were more than fine working under the closed-loop system.
A resigned worker told the South China Morning Post that releases from official media did not demonstrate the situation.
The person said via phone, “If you don’t show up at work, you are not entitled to food or testing.”
Due to insufficient food and medical care, coupled with a growing fear of potential widespread infection at any time, many workers tried to escape the factory.
On October 30, multiple media reported many Foxconn workers were fleeing the sprawling campus, with some having walked 25 miles to avoid the pandemic curbs.
According to DW News, Li from China Labor Watch stated that Foxconn eased some of the strict measures after the news sparked the public’s outrage.
The factory then added that it wouldn’t prevent workers from leaving the factory.
To ease workers, on November 1, Foxconn announced that workers would receive a new daily bonus of up to $55 (400 yuan) instead of $14 (100 yuan) per day for November.
Reuters report that Foxconn also offered employees who work for more than 25 days this month a maximum bonus of nearly $690 rather than $206.
And those willing to put in the most effort in November will earn a total bonus of nearly $2,060, much higher than the monthly salary of about $410 to $550.
Despite the bonuses, some employees still wanted to leave. A worker told Reuters that however great the rewards, she had to quit because what she and her colleagues endured was “horrible.”
In fact, those who didn’t leave suffered a lot.
Around November 1, footage appearing on Chinese social media showed a person in a hazmat suit trying to move an unconscious person lying among a pile of garbage.
It is suspected that it was the corpse of factory workers.
Local authorities have also responded to the situation. It’s not about dealing with tensions but increasing tensions.
On November 2, Chinese authorities imposed a seven-day COVID lockdown on surrounding areas of the Foxconn iPhone factory in Zhengzhou.
Per DW News, the Zhengzhou Airport Economy Zone, in Henan province, which housesFoxconn iPhone factory, stated that except for related COVID prevention staff, all people “must not leave their residences except to receive COVID tests and emergency medical treatment.”
The Guardian News cited an official statement reporting that residents in the area, about 16 miles south-east of Zhengzhou, were ordered to stay home and had to conduct COVID tests once daily.
The statement added that rule violators would be “severely dealt with” by the police.
But the situation at the factory was still very complicated.
On November 5, another footage appeared on the internet. It showed a woman standing on an outdoor condenser. In her Henanaccent, she yelled that the bodies of Foxconn workers were tossed into the garbage.
There is no telling which building the woman was in or precisely who she was. But most of those who watched the footage believe she could be one of the Foxconn workers in Zhengzhou city.
No publication has so far managed to verify the events behind the alleged death bodies, nor their timeline. But together, they painted a bleak picture of what has been happening inside the Zhengzhou facility.
Meanwhile, some videos captured the scenes of Foxconn workers escaping. Many carried bags of their belongings while making their way on foot back to their hometowns, miles and days away. But they have to face the barrier made by the control staff.
They set up man-made barriers seemingly to block the wave of workers, but their efforts ended up in vain. These workers stepped around them and kept walking.
As reported by Bloomberg, a 20-year-old worker named Dong said that she and her brother had to walk with their luggage for 25 miles to get home to a small town located southeast of Zhengzhou.
After completing the nine-hour trip, Dong said, “I was completely spent from walking; I got a massive blister filled with blood.”
She added, “Foxconn really messed up, I don’t think a lot of people would want to go back. I know I wouldn’t.”