Unrest at virus-hit China iPhone factory

Workers at the world's biggest Apple iPhone factory in China have been beaten and detained in protests over contract disputes amid anti-virus controls, social media videos have shown.

Footage on Chinese social media purportedly filmed at the factory in the central city of Zhengzhou revealed thousands of people in masks facing rows of police in white protective suits with plastic riot shields.

The images showed one person being hit in the head with a club while another was taken away with his arms held behind his back.

In other videos, protesters can be seen spraying fire extinguishers towards police.

Posts on social media said the workers were protesting against unspecified contract violations.

The factory operator, Foxconn Technology Group, said earlier it was using "closed-loop management", which refers to employees living at their workplace with no outside contact.

That followed a walk-out last month by thousands of employees over complaints about inadequate anti-virus protection and a lack of help for co-workers who fell ill.

Apple warned earlier that deliveries of its new iPhone 14 model would be delayed due to anti-disease controls imposed on the Zhengzhou factory.

The city government suspended access to an industrial zone that surrounds the factory, which Foxconn has said employs 200,000 people.

Foxconn, headquartered in Taipei, Taiwan, did not immediately respond to a request for information about the situation.

Reports earlier said the ruling Communist Party ordered "grassroots cadres" to fill in for Foxconn employees in Zhengzhou who left.

Last month, hordes of Foxconn workers left the factory en masse to avoid Covid-19 curbs. Videos circulating on social media showed workers carrying bags of belongings and leaving by foot, with some volunteers leaving food and water on the streets for the workers.

China is the only major country in the world still trying to curb virus transmissions through strict lockdown measures and mass testing, and the strategy is being tested by multiple outbreaks driven by fast-spreading Omicron variants.

Protests have flared as the number and severity of outbreaks has risen across China, including in Beijing. Earlier this week, authorities reported several COVID-19 deaths, for the first time in six months.

The Chinese government said Tuesday that more than 253,000 coronavirus cases have been found in the past three weeks and the daily average was increasing.