China Locks Down Area Around World’s Largest iPhone Factory, Trapping Panicked Workers

ZHENGZHOU, CHINA - NOVEMBER 01 2022: A medical worker takes swab samples on residents during a door-to-door Covid-19 screening in Zhengzhou in central China's Henan province Tuesday, Nov. 01, 2022. (Photo credit should read / Feature China/Future Publishing via Getty Images)
Feature China/Future Publishing via Getty Images

Chinese officials on Wednesday announced a one-week coronavirus lockdown in the Zhengzhou Airport Economy Zone, the district where Foxconn Technology Group’s massive iPhone assembly plant is located.

The plant made international headlines this week when workers began climbing over the fences and attempting to flee Zhengzhou before they either contracted Chinese coronavirus or were caught in one of China’s draconian “zero-Covid” lockdowns.

Taiwanese-owned Foxconn showed some sympathy for its panicked employees by offering them transportation to their home cities, which in some cases were over 60 miles away. The company offered daily and monthly bonuses to those employees who were willing to stay.

The Chinese Communist Party evidently decided it would be more expedient to cut off the routes of escape by locking the entire Zhengzhou Airport Economy Zone down, as reported by the South China Morning Post (SCMP) on Wednesday:

Authorities said the district lockdown will last until noon on November 9, according to a statement posted on an official account. Extensions of such lockdowns in China are common.

“The current pandemic situation is severe and complicated,” the statement said, adding the lockdown was intended “to protect the lives and health of the people, reduce the flow of people, and quickly and effectively contain the spread of the pandemic”.

Private businesses have been closed, gatherings are suspended and only essential traffic is being allowed. Government employees were told to work from home or volunteer help for local mass testing or other community needs.

City officials also announced mass coronavirus testing on a daily basis and threatened to “strictly deal with those found to be disobedient.” 

Chinese subjects are forced to install a smartphone app on their phones that enables the central government to flag them with color-coded health warnings if they do not test negative for Chinese coronavirus on a regular basis. The Communist Party has abused the app to force healthy people into quarantine for political reasons on several occasions.

The SCMP noted Chinese officials waited several days to disclose how severe the Zhengzhou coronavirus outbreak was, leaving city residents and Foxconn employees to speculate about their situation via phone messages and social media. 

Foxconn moved quickly to implement coronavirus procedures in its plant, but that only led to complaints on social media about “inadequate living conditions threatening their health,” as the SCMP put it, so the sense of apprehension in Zhengzhou grew more pronounced. 

Among other complaints, workers said the Foxconn plant was not stocked with enough food for the roughly 200,000 workers trapped within. Insiders accused plant management of putting workers who tested positive for Chinese coronavirus in close contact with those who had not, and said the factory’s modest quarantine zone was quickly overwhelmed.

Zhengzhou city officials made a show of relaxing restrictions in “low-risk” areas of the city on Tuesday after complaints from residents, but this only led to accusations of “performative lockdown lifting” on social media. 

In short, critics accused the city government of trying to impress Chinese national media by claiming they had done such a good job of controlling the Chinese coronavirus outbreak that restrictions imposed in early October could be relaxed, but in truth “normal life” did not resume. The new lockdown on the area surrounding the Foxconn plant will provide fresh ammunition for these skeptics.

“Earlier experiences in China, such as those with the Shanghai lockdown earlier this year, suggest that the Zhengzhou measures could extend beyond what was initially announced,” the New York Times (NYT) posited on Wednesday, putting the fears of many Zhengzhou residents into words.


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