China ordered the confinement of six million people in the city of Zhengzhou, home to the world’s largest iPhone phone factory, where violent protests broke out over wages and isolation conditions for staff.
The restrictive “zero Covid” strategy of the Asian giant is cornered by the multiple outbreaks that have arisen in the country, which yesterday registered its highest number of daily infections of the pandemic.
The unrest over the continued imposition of measures led to demonstrations such as hundreds of workers at that factory in Zhengzhou, who clashed on Wednesday with riot police and agents in protective suits carrying machetes.
In the southern city of Guangzhou, protesters fed up with the lockdown poured out of shuttered buildings to confront health workers and loot food supplies.
And in tune, many Chinese have been furious with authorities after the death of a 4-month-old baby girl, whose father said access to medical treatment was delayed due to Covid restrictions.
The population’s rejection of the harsh restrictions by Covid-19 is getting stronger and stronger
As the harsh rules of the pandemic stretch into its third year in China, there are growing signs of discontent across the country. For Chinese leader Xi Jinping, the unrest is a precedent-breaking test of his third term in power and underscores the pressing political question of how he can lead China out of the Covid era.
The unusual displays of defiance in the past two weeks are highly visible signs of frustration and despair with the lockdowns, quarantines and mass testing that have upended daily life. The anger, combined with nationwide Covid outbreaks that have pushed cases to an all-time high, anticipate a dark boreal winter.
In the midst of this unrest, the municipal authorities ordered a massive test of the population and the confinement of several districts of this city in central China starting this Friday.
Residents of the city center cannot leave the area if they do not have a negative Covid test and do not obtain permission from the authorities. In addition, they cannot leave their homes “unless necessary.”
The restrictions will affect more than six million people, almost half the population of Zhengzhou.
Many are watching to see if the recent chaos at the iPhone plant spills over into other places. Even before the riot that broke out at the plant this week, Apple had warned that a poorly organized lockdown would hurt its sales. Analysts have forecast longer wait times for holiday purchases of the iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max.
In addition to the wage demand from the Taiwanese technology giant Foxconn, which confined employees inside the complex that manufactures iPhones in Zhengzhou, many workers complained about the “chaotic” living conditions inside the plant, for which the American giant Apple already has representatives on site reviewing the situation.
The measures taken in Zhengzhou are part of China’s “zero Covid” strategy to eradicate the virus from its territory through lockdowns, travel restrictions and mass testing.
However, after almost three years of pandemic, Covid-19 cases in the country are higher than ever. The National Health Office reported yesterday 31,444 new infections registered in the previous day.
Although the figure is low in a population of 1.4 billion inhabitants, especially compared to the balances of the rest of the world at the peak of the pandemic, these outbreaks cause multiple restrictions in the country. The vague and changing nature of these measures and their impact on the world’s second largest economy are taking a toll on the population.
In addition to Zhengzhou, several cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chongqing tightened their restrictions amid rising cases.
Protests at the largest iPhone factory in China could spread to other parts of the country / AP