Large-scale protests broke out at Foxconn’s vast iPhone factory in Zhengzhou, central China, images circulating on Weibo and Twitter on Wednesday showed.
Videos showed hundreds of workers marching on a road in daylight, with some being confronted by a row of people in hazmat suits and riot police.
Another clip from a livestream video showed dozens of workers at night confronting a row of police officers and a police vehicle with flashing lights, shouting, “Defend our rights! Defend our rights!”
One worker dragged a metal barricade along the ground, with the streamer saying in the background as clouds of smoke billowed from the vehicle, “They are rushing in! Smoke bombs! Tear gas!”
One photo taken during the day showed the charred remains of a gate, apparently burned down during the night.
The Weibo hashtag “Foxconn Riots” appeared to be censored by Wednesday noon, while some text posts referencing large-scale protests at the Foxconn factory remained live.
Foxconn, also known by its official name Hon Hai Precision Industry, is the world’s biggest contract electronics manufacturer assembling gadgets for many international brands.
Foxconn, Apple’s principal subcontractor, saw a surge in COVID-19 cases at its Zhengzhou site in recent months, leading the company to shutter the vast complex in a bid to keep the virus in check.
Panicking workers then fled the site en masse on foot in the wake of allegations of poor conditions at the facility, which employs hundreds of thousands of workers.
Foxconn is China’s biggest private sector employer, with over a million people working across the country in about 30 factories and research institutes.
Zhengzhou is the Taiwanese company’s crown jewel, churning out iPhones in quantities not seen anywhere else.
The company did not immediately respond to an AFP request for comment on the unrest.