The Perfect Enemy | COVID-19: China’s ‘iPhone city’ locks down 6 million residents
February 28, 2024

China has ordered 6 million people into lockdown in a city where violent protests broke out at an iPhone factory over COVID-19 isolation policies and working conditions.

Hundreds of workers took to the streets around the vast iPhone factory in Zhengzhou on Wednesday, confronting security personnel wearing hazmat suits and wielding batons, in a rare display of public anger in China.

In the wake of the unrest, Zhengzhou authorities ordered mass testing and an effective lockdown for several districts in the central Chinese city starting today.

Photo: AFP

Zhengzhou residents cannot leave the area unless they have a negative COVID-19 test and permission from local authorities, and are advised not to leave their homes “unless necessary,” the authorities said.

The restrictions are to affect more than 6 million people, but do not cover the iPhone factory, where workers have for weeks been under COVID-19 restrictions.

One worker said the protests had begun over a dispute over promised bonuses at the factory.

Photo: AFP

Many of his colleagues were also incensed by “chaotic” living conditions, said the worker, who wished to remain anonymous.

Apple Inc said it had representatives on the ground at the factory and was “reviewing the situation and working … to ensure their employees’ concerns are addressed.”

The curbs in Zhengzhou are part of China’s “zero COVID-19” policy, which involves lockdowns, travel curbs and mass testing.

However, three years into the COVID-19 pandemic, cases of the disease are now higher than they have ever been in China.

There were 31,444 new domestic infections on Wednesday, the Chinese National Health Commission reported.

The numbers are relatively small compared with China’s vast population of 1.4 billion or global caseloads at the height of the pandemic.

However under China’s “zero COVID-19” policy, even small outbreaks can shut down entire cities and land the contacts of infected people in strict quarantine.

The unrelenting push to thwart transmission has given rise to fatigue and resentment among swathes of the population, sparking sporadic protests and hitting productivity in the world’s second-largest economy. The Zhengzhou protests have been among the highest-profile bouts of unrest.

Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chongqing have also tightened COVID-19 restrictions as cases have climbed.

The capital now requires a negative polymerase chain reaction test result from within 48 hours for those seeking to enter public places such as shopping malls, hotels and government buildings.

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