Workers at China’s largest iPhone factory scaled fences after being locked inside the plant amid the country’s stringent measures to curb the spread of COVID.
Stunning video from the Communist nation showed workers at the Foxconn plant in the central city of Zhengzhou climbing over the perimeter fence Sunday and trekking back to their homes.
“There were so many people on the road, as if we were escaping from a famine,” said a Foxconn worker in his 30s surnamed Yuan, who said he scaled fences in order to leave the plant and return to his central China hometown of Hebi.
Workers at the factory, which employs 200,000, have been locked inside since Oct. 14 after an alleged COVID outbreak.
Since the lockdown began, conditions inside the plant have worsened, according to the workers. Trash had begun piling up in the hallways, and last week, the plant banned all dine-in catering. Workers had to eat meals in their dormitories, some crowded with as many as 11 people.
All the while, employees were expected to continue working full days, even ramping up production with the release of Apple’s new iPhone 14.
Apple did not respond to a request for comment.
Foxconn is Apple’s biggest iPhone maker, producing 70% of iPhone shipments globally, which in turn makes up 45% of the Taiwanese firm’s revenue, analysts at Taipei-based Fubon Research said this month.
A person with direct knowledge of the matter said iPhone production at the plant could drop as much as 30% in November, and that Foxconn is working to boost production at a factory in Shenzhen, China, to make up for the shortfall.
“Foxconn really messed up, I don’t think a lot of people would want to go back. I know I wouldn’t,” Dong Wanwan, a 20-year-old worker who escaped the plant on Sunday, told Bloomberg.
Foxconn said Sunday it will not stop workers from leaving if they choose to, and that it will “resume dine-in meals to improve the convenience and satisfaction of employees’ lives,” with the cooperation of the Chinese government.
The Chinese government began removing workers from assembly lines without warning if they were suspected of having the virus, creating widespread fear and uncertainty among employees.
“People would be called away in the middle of work, and if they don’t show up the next day, that would mean they had been taken away,” one worker told Reuters.
The lockdown is part of China’s controversial zero-COVID policy that has plagued the country’s economic productivity since 2020.
Zhengzhou reported 167 locally transmitted infections last week, resulting in a citywide lockdown of over 10 million people.
With Post wires