Workers in China protest COVID-19 lockdowns

By Brian Williams
December 12, 2022
Workers in China protest COVID-19 lockdowns
Reuters/Thomas Peter

In unprecedented defiance of the Chinese government’s iron-fisted zero-COVID lockdowns, which have confined millions and left many hungry, demonstrations erupted across the country Nov. 26-27. This followed protests in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang province, the day before. After months of lockdowns there, an apartment building fire enraged residents over COVID restrictions that blocked rescuers from saving the lives of 10 people.

The eruption comes after thousands of workers in Zhengzhou at the world’s biggest iPhone factory protested Nov. 22 over pay, unsafe working conditions and the lockdown there that confined workers to the plant. Thousands joined actions in Shanghai and Beijing (above), swelled by hundreds of students at universities from Nanjing to the capital. A slogan in Shanghai was “Unlock Xinjiang, unlock China!” At several protests chants included, “Xi Jinping, step down! Communist Party, step down!” This is an unprecedented challenge to the social controls of President Xi’s capitalist regime. Some held up sheets of blank paper or some featuring only an exclamation point inside a red circle, the symbol state censors use to block internet postings.

At the iPhone plant, Han Li, a new worker, told the New York Times, “We protested the whole day, from day to night.” Police and company goons beat and detained a number of workers.

The plant, operated by Taiwan-based Foxconn Technology Group, employs over 200,000 workers and makes most of Apple’s iPhone 14. Under the government’s zero-COVID policy, Foxconn forced workers to live on factory premises with no outside contact. Thousands quit in October.

In an effort to recruit workers to replace those who left, Foxconn promised to pay 25,000 yuan ($3,500) for new hires’ first two months’ work. But the company reneged. “Workers from all parts of the country came, only to find they were being made fools of,” Li Sanshan, one of those newly hired, told The Associated Press.

Protests broke out in the face of the lockdown, including in some cases being forced to share dormitory rooms with those who tested positive for COVID-19.

Bosses stated Nov. 24 that the promise of immediate high wages was due to “a technical error” in its computer system. It offered to pay up to 10,000 yuan if discontented workers would just quit and go home. Thousands did.