(May 7): Hundreds of workers at a technology factory in China clashed with authorities and flooded past isolation barriers after weeks under lockdown, a stunning breakdown in the Communist Party’s efforts to contain Covid-19 infections.
The Shanghai factory, which is owned by Taiwan’s Quanta Computer Inc. and makes devices for Apple Inc. among others, has been operating under tight restrictions since the beginning of April. In a video shared on Twitter and YouTube, workers rushed through barriers and tangled with guards in white protective gear who tried to keep them inside.
Quanta employees confirmed the clash occurred Thursday evening, while the company did not immediately provide comment. One worker said that people are worried about further tightening because there are positive Covid cases on the campus. The government is taking a central role in managing the plant’s operations, said another employee on-site.
The incident underscores the rising challenges for President Xi Jinping’s hardline strategy in containing the pandemic. China has imposed sweeping lockdowns to quarantine the infected and prevent Covid’s spread, an approach that has sparked unusual protests and complaints in the 25-million strong city of Shanghai. The policy has also threatened China’s economy, jeopardizing its ability to reach a target growth rate of 5.5%.
China’s main strategy for minimizing damage to its economy amid the rolling lockdowns is for companies and factories to operate in a “closed loop” system, in which workers live and sleep on-site or in nearby accommodation that they’re shuttled to. This has helped Shanghai restart production at more than 70% of its industrial manufacturing facilities, while 90% of 660 “key” industrial companies have resumed output, officials said this week.
But it’s unclear how long the closed loops can be sustained, given the resources required to feed and house thousands of workers at a time. The system also requires that workers avoid contact with anyone outside the loop, including family members. The majority of Japanese factories in Shanghai haven’t yet resumed operating despite the city’s assurances that production is getting back on track.
Tensions at the Quanta factory in the Songjiang district of Shanghai boiled over after workers tried to return to dormitories after their shifts, according to Taiwanese media outlet UDN. More than 100 jumped over a gate and ran past the staff without regard for their guidance, it said.
People are getting tired and frustrated under the controls, one of the workers said.
Operations at the facility returned to normal by Friday morning, another worker said.
Quanta is a critical partner for Apple, generating more than 50% of its revenue from the Cupertino, Calif.-based company as it assembles MacBooks and other devices. The Taiwanese company also does work for HP Inc., Dell Technologies Inc. and Microsoft Corp., according to Bloomberg supply chain data.