Large-scale protests broke out at Foxconn’s sprawling iPhone factory in Zhengzhou, central China, footage circulating on Weibo and Twitter showed on Wednesday.
In the videos, hundreds of workers were walking down a road in broad daylight, encountering a line of people, some in hazmat suits and riot police.
Another clip from a live video showed dozens of workers at night confronting a line of police and a police vehicle with flashing lights, chanting “Defend our rights! Defend our rights!”
A worker dragged a metal barricade from the ground, and in the background the streamer said as clouds of smoke billowed from the vehicle: “They’re rushing in! Smoke bombs! Tear gas!”
A photo taken during the day showed the grisly remains of a door, apparently burned overnight.
The “Foxconn Riots” hashtag on Weibo was censored at midday Wednesday, and a number of text messages referring to large-scale protests at the Foxconn factory followed live.
Foxconn, also known by its official name Hon Hai Precision Industry, is the largest electronic contract manufacturer that assembles gadgets for many international brands.
Foxconn, Apple’s main subcontractor, saw a surge in COVID-19 cases at its Zhengzhou site in recent months, and the company shut down the sprawling complex in a bid to contain the virus.
Panicked workers then fled the site en masse on foot, blaming poor conditions at the facility, which employs hundreds of thousands of workers.
Foxconn is China’s largest private sector employer, employing more than one million people in about 30 factories and research institutes across the country.
Zhengzhou is a gem of a Taiwanese company that creates iPhones not seen anywhere else.
The company did not immediately respond to AFP’s request for comment on the unrest.