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China and Covid19

Foxconn Protests 2.0: Riots at Zhengzhou’s Foxconn Factory as New Workers Enter and Old Problems Remain

Fed up with Foxconn, employees vented their frustrations and started a riot at the Zhengzhou factory campus.

Manya Koetse

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Following an exodus of employees, Zhengzhou’s Foxconn factory has been recruiting thousands of new employees to come and work for them. But despite new workers, old problems remain, and the “Foxconn Workers Movement 2.0” (富士康2.0工人运动) has begun.

There is trouble in Foxconn, again. Dealing with a Covid outbreak, anti-epidemic guidelines, a loss of employees, and the pressure to deliver at a time of peak production demand, the anger, panic, and frustrations have been mounting inside the Foxconn premises.

In late October, Foxconn (富士康), the world’s largest technology manufacturer and Apple supplier, already made headlines after its factory in Zhengzhou, Henan, was hit by a Covid outbreak that was grossly mismanaged. The Foxconn complex in Zhengzhou, where half of the world’s iPhones are made, employs approximately 300,000 people. Factory workers live at the Foxconn dormitories and usually eat inside the campus, but as living conditions worsened amid the wave of Covid cases, employees started fleeing the Foxconn ‘factory city,’ starting their long journey home on foot, walking on highways and fields across the Central Plains while carrying their blankets, bags, and other personal belongings.

Foxconn employees leaving the bad situation at the factory campus and going home by foot in late October of 2022.

After the big walk-out, the company dealt with a staff shortage so local government staff teams were called in, allegedly to get into the factory and help with the recruitment of new employees. But as they faced challenges in meeting their targets and attracting enough new workers and did not meet their targets, frustrations at the factory site were allegedly building up due to the increased pressure on the employees who had to continue working while Covid cases were still popping up.

As rumors grew strong on Chinese social media about something happening at Foxconn in Zhengzhou in the early morning of 23 November, the majority of posts related to the issue are: “What happened?” and “Can anybody send me a private message on what happened?” “Is it true that they are filming a movie at Foxconn or is something else going on?” Due to censorship, many people did not understand the exact circumstances surrounding some of the videos that circulated online.

Meanwhile, posts circulating on WeChat and Douyin suggested that riots had erupted at Foxconn. Photos and videos making their rounds showed explosive and violent scenes involving police riot teams and people in full hazmat suits. The unrest continued during the day on Wednesday.

One post published by an anonymous Henan-based Douyin user explained:

“Let me tell you what happened at Foxconn today. Foxconn has recruited people from all over the country to come work in Zhengzhou Foxconn under generous conditions. Now in total more than 100,000 people have been recruited to come work at Zhengzhou Foxconn. They came over and were quarantined in the cities near Zhengzhou to isolate and quarantine for four days while getting paid.”

“But the problem now is that the first batch of people who have isolated have arrived at the Foxconn campus as new workers. Foxconn originally promised that new workers and original workers would live separately, but in reality they all live in the dorm buildings; and the old employees haven’t done nucleic acid testing for 7-8 days, which means that there are positive Covid cases living and working together with new employees. This caused panic among the new workers, who feel cheated. That was the first deception.”

“The second deception is that tonight everybody received a new contract from Foxconn, regardless if they were new employees who had already entered the Foxconn campus or employees who were still in quarantine, and the contract was totally different from the one issued by Foxconn at the time of recruitment.”

“Everyone felt that Foxconn has deceived from the start and tricked them, which led to the outburst of riots today. Up to now, the Zhengzhou government has not given any response and we do not know how this will develop.”

It is suggested in other videos that the problems at Foxconn had been building up for much longer now and that there have been smaller altercations and incidents in the days leading up to the outburst of protests on Wednesday.

Some news sources confirm that Foxconn workers stated to reporters that the company introduced new factory subsidy policies that were not in line with what they were promised at the time of recruitment.

Because this is the second big wave of unrest at Foxconn Zhengzhou this fall, allegedly mainly led by the new workers, the protest is also referred to as the “Foxconn Workers Movement 2.0” (富士康2.0工人运动) by some on social media.

“We are not asking for anything, just regular nucleic acid testing and food delivery would do,” one female said in a video that circulated on Kuaishou, another popular Chinese social video app.

“Foxconn is trash, they’re garbage, they’ve used military force to suppress the workers, many staff members got injured, and the Zhengzhou government is colluding with them in bullying ordinary workers,” one Weibo commenter wrote.

Two men look defeated at the Foxconn site, the hazmat suits in the back lined up like a brick wall.

“I feel so sorry for the workers.”

There are also those on Weibo who are drawing comparisons between protests at Foxconn and the Hong Kong riots: “I find it odd that once riots broke out in Hong Kong, everyone unanimously sided with the police and cheered on as they beat the ‘cockroaches,’ and now that riots are breaking out in Foxconn, people don’t even take the time to know the cause and effects before already blaming the police and the government.”

“We should support mainland China police in the same way we supported the Hong Kong police force,” others wrote.

Meanwhile, a clear majority of the people speak out in support of the Foxconn workers. They post old propaganda posters that emphasize how the Chinese working class will lead the revolution, and recommend other Weibo users to read Karl Marx. “Is the working class still leading?” they ask.

Noteworthy enough, one somewhat popular post on Weibo pointed out that the online censorship of the Foxconn protests had not been that bad as many videos and images surrounding the event were still circulating online. “That’s rare these days,” they wrote. Ironically, the image they posted with their text was censored.

It is now frequently pointed out that Zhengzhou is ruining its reputation. Although the entire country cheered for the city at the time of the floods in 2021, local authorities have been increasingly criticized since the duped depositors came to protest in the city and saw their health codes turn red. People also condemn Zhengzhou’s handling of the epidemic. Earlier this week, a local community went viral for warning outsiders that they would ‘be killed on the spot’ if they would enter; last week, a local initiative to launch extra expensive, extra fast ‘VIP services’ for nucleic acid testing was also met with disapproval.

“I feel so distressed about this,” one Weibo commenter replied to the Foxconn situation: “It’s time to wake up!”

“What’s the first sentence of the national anthem?” one blogger wrote: “Stand up, those who refuse to be slaves!”

For more articles on the Covid situation in China, check here. If you appreciate what we do, please support us by subscribing for just a small annual fee.

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes

 

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©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China and Covid19

Chinese Commentator Hu Xijin Expects to “Get Covid Within a Month” (and Why It Matters)

This Hu Xijin commentary can be seen as part of a wider trend of normalizing Covid in the Chinese online media sphere.

Manya Koetse

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Hu Xijin (胡锡进), the Beijing-based retired editor-in-chief of the state-run Global Times, recently published a post on the Chinese social media platform Weibo about him getting mentally ready to be infected with Covid-19 soon.

The former journalist Hu, whose posts and statements often go trending and influence public opinion, also made a few other noteworthy comments.

On Sunday (Dec 4), Hu posted: “Over the past week, China has essentially ended widespread lockdowns, with places like Beijing and others beginning to allow home quarantine for many positive individuals, while reducing the scope of nucleic acid testing. These are amazing changes.”

Four weeks ago, right before China introduced its twenty new Covid measures, Hu already argued that strict lockdowns are no longer sustainable and that China should aim for a more relaxed and local approach (which is exactly what happened).

Now, Hu Xijin says that he is “mentally preparing to be infected with Covid within the coming month” (“做好了在一个月之内被感染上的思想准备”), further writing:

In order for young people to have a colorful young era, in order to save the livelihood of so many service industry workers, in order for people from all walks of life to avoid seeing their wages cut, in order for so many companies to get out of their predicaments, this 62-year-old ‘Old Hu’ is willing to participate in the risk of getting [a virus that] degenerated to only 2.5 per 10,000 rate of getting seriously ill.”

Hu’s post was published on December 2nd in the context of Hu Says, a regular video column by Hu Xijin.

A few months ago, such a comment coming from such a big account would have been unthinkable.

In May of this year, those who tested positive still complained about suffering from stigmatization in society.

But Hu’s comments come at a time when there are more discussions about getting Covid and sharing the experiences of having Covid.

In the second week of November, shortly after Chinese authorities launched their updated Covid rules, the hashtag “What Is It Like to Catch Covid-19?” (#感染新冠是什么体验#) already went trending on Weibo, along with other hashtags informing Chinese netizens about what it’s like to get Covid – a virus that so many in China never experienced first hand.

Since Hu Xijin (1960) ended his career as the editor-in-chief of Global Times in 2021, his role as a political commentator has arguably become even more important and more visible on Weibo than before, especially in China’s challenging Covid times of 2021.

Some find him overly nationalistic, for others he is not nationalistic enough; there are those who find him reasonable, and then some say he is repetitive and just dancing to the tune of Party propaganda. But then there have also been some discussions – in light of Pelosi’s controversial Taiwan visit – about Hu misleading public opinion by not matching the official stance.

Whichever it is, some things are certain: Hu has some 25 million followers on Weibo, and he is often the first major media account that is allowed to discuss in detail some major sensitive social topics, even if these online discussions are otherwise being tightly controlled (think of the Tangshan BBQ Restaurant incident, the future of zero Covid, the Urumqi fire, and the 11.24 protests across China.)

Hu’s comments about ‘catching Covid soon’ can be seen as part of a wider trend of normalizing Covid in the Chinese online media sphere, preparing people to face a virus they are still unfamiliar with since ‘zero Covid’ has always been the main goal.

On December 3, Hu further clarified his comments about preparing to getting Covid. He explained he expects to catch the virus because he is active in the media environment, through which he unavoidably is in touch with many different people. He also promised that if he might get infected, he would share his Covid experience with all of his readers.

As the idea of catching Covid is becoming more normalized (there are more and more trending hashtags informing what to expect after getting Covid, e.g. #新冠发病7天内身体会发生什么变化#), people are also exchanging non-scientifical advice on how to prevent catching Covid, such as drinking licorice ginger soup, holding Sichuan peppercorns inside your mouth when going out, or getting silicon covers for the drains in the bathroom to prevent the virus coming through via neighboring apartments.

Some express their worries about catching the virus. “I’m really scared. I’ve already replaced all of my masks with K95 ones,” one Weibo user wrote: “My immune system has been weak since I was little, and I have allergies. I have the feeling that if I get infected I might lose half my life, if I don’t die (..) I’m in a state of panic.”

Even though China is still far from ‘opening up’, some people are already preparing to ‘live together with the virus,’ reminding others that getting vaccinated, keeping social distance, and washing hands are all measures that will help in preventing getting Covid.

“I am worried about getting Covid but I also want to open up,” some on Weibo said.

“As much as I wanted it all to end, this feels abrupt,” one social media user from Inner Mongolia wrote: “It won’t be the same as before. The thorough ‘zero Covid’ [policy] has gone. The country’s protection of our health has gone up to this point. I hope everyone can now take care in prevention themselves, and protect themselves and their families. I hope the epidemic situation will end soon, that the world will be ok, and that we can have our freedom.”

Meanwhile, Hu Xijin informed netizens on Saturday that he had some milk, boiled eggs, pastry and pickled mustard greens for breakfast. While working on his condition and nutrition, he says that if his Covid positive time comes, he will not get any VIP treatment. If allowed, he’ll either recover from home or go to a centralized Covid location.

He will just have to wait and see what happens, just as millions of other Chinese citizens are waiting to see what this winter is going to bring.

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes

The featured images are all images that went viral recently in light of China opening up (including nucleic acid testing booths being taken away).

 

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China and Covid19

Announced Changes in Nucleic Acid Testing and Further Easing of Covid Measures Across China

Bus and subway operators in Beijing will no longer refuse entry to passengers without a 48-hour negative nucleic acid certificate.

Manya Koetse

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On Monday, directly after that noteworthy unrest-filled weekend, the hashtag “Multiple Locations Announce Nucleic Acid Testing Changes” (#多地核酸检测通知发生变化#) went trending on Chinese social media, receiving over 660 million clicks by Monday evening.

Immediately following demonstrations in Beijing and a second night of protests in Shanghai and elsewhere, various Chinese media reported how different areas across the country are introducing changes to their current Covid19 testing measures.

On Wednesday, November 30, China’s vice-premier Sun Chunlan made remarks at a meeting on epidemic prevention, underlining the importance of “constantly optimizing” China’s Covid-19 response and talking about a “new stage and mission” – without ever mentioning “zero Covid.”

This is what we know about easing Covid measures thus far:

▶ Strict lockdowns have been lifted in Guangzhou, Zhengzhou, and Chongqing.

▶ On November 28, Guangzhou announced that people who do not actively participate in social life will no longer need to participate in continuous nucleic acid screening. This includes elderly people who stay indoors for long periods of time, students who take online classes, and those who work from home. The change will apply to residents in seven districts, including Haizhu, Panyu, Tianhe, and Baiyun (#广州7区无社会面活动者可不参加全员核酸#).

▶ Guangzhou, according to Reuters, also scrapped a rule that only people with a negative COVID test can buy fever medication over the counter.

Harbin will follow the example of Guangzhou, and will also allow people who are mostly based at home to skip nucleic acid test screenings.

▶ Same goes for Shenyang, and Taiyuan.

▶ In Chongqing, various districts have done widespread Covid testing campaigns, but the local authorities announced that those communities that have not had a positive Covid case over the past five days do not need to participate in nucleic acid screening anymore. This means an end to district-wide testing.

▶ On November 30, Beijing also announced that it will start exempting some people from frequent Covid testing, including those elderly residents who are bound to home and other people who do not go out and have social interactions. This also includes younger students who are following classes online.

▶ Starting from December 5, bus and subway operators in Beijing will no longer refuse entry to passengers without a 48-hour negative nucleic acid certificate (announced on December 2nd).

▶ Although not officially announced, there have been various social media posts and reports about Covid-positive people in Beijing being allowed to quarantine at home if they meet conditions.

Chengdu Metro announced on December 2nd that it will no longer check passengers’ nucleic acid test reports. Passengers still need to scan their travel code and those with a green code can enter. Other public places will reportedly also start to accept the ‘green code’ only without a time limit on nucleic acid testing.

Tianjin metro announced that the 72-hour nucleic acid certificate check will be also be canceled for passengers on the Tianjin metro lines. As in other places, people will still need to wear proper face masks and undergo temperature checks.

▶ In Hangzhou, except for at special places such as nursing homes, orphanages, primary and secondary schools, people’s nucleic acid tests will no longer be checked in public transportation and other public places. They will also stop checking people’s Venue Codes (场所码).

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes

 

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