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Workers at China’s largest iPhone factory scaled fences after being locked inside due to the country’s strict COVID control measures.
A stunning video from the Communist country showed workers at the Foxconn plant in Zhengzhou’s central city climbing over the perimeter fence and trekking back to their homes on Sunday.
“There were so many people on the road as if we were fleeing a famine,” said Yuan, a Foxconn worker in his 30s who said he scaled fences to leave the plant and return to his hometown of Hebi in central China.
Workers at the 200,000-person factory have been locked inside since Oct. 14 due to an alleged COVID outbreak.
According to the workers, conditions inside the plant have deteriorated since the lockdown began. Trash had begun to accumulate in the hallways, and the plant had recently banned all dine-in catering. Workers were forced to eat in their dormitories, which could house up to 11 people.
Employees were expected to continue working full days, even as production increased with the release of Apple’s new iPhone 14.
A request for comment from Apple was not returned.
According to analysts at Taipei-based Fubon Research, Foxconn is Apple’s largest iPhone manufacturer, producing 70% of global iPhone shipments, which accounts for 45% of the Taiwanese firm’s revenue.
According to a source with direct knowledge of the situation, iPhone production at the plant could drop by up to 30% in November, and Foxconn is working to increase output at a factory in Shenzhen, China, to make up for the shortfall.
“Foxconn really screwed up, and I don’t think many people would want to go back.” “I know I wouldn’t,” said Dong Wanwan, a 20-year-old worker who escaped the plant on Sunday.
Foxconn said on Sunday that it will not prevent employees from leaving if they want to, and that it will “resume dine-in meals to improve the convenience and satisfaction of employees’ lives,” with the Chinese government’s cooperation.
If workers were suspected of having the virus, the Chinese government began removing them from assembly lines without warning, instilling widespread fear and uncertainty among employees.
“People would be called away in the middle of their shifts, and if they didn’t show up the next day, it meant they’d been taken away,” one worker told Reuters.
The ban is part of China’s contentious zero-COVID policy, which has hampered the country’s economic productivity since 2020.
Last week, Zhengzhou reported 167 locally transmitted infections, prompting a citywide lockdown of over 10 million people.
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