A company responsible for making components for Apple's new iPhone 5 was forced to shut one of its plants in China yesterday after thousands of its employees began brawling.
Fighting at the Foxconn Technology Group plant in the northern Chinese city of Taiyuan, one of a network of massive factories the Taiwanese company owns around China, had escalated into a violent free-for-all reportedly involving up to 2,000 workers from different provinces.
A statement from Foxconn said the incident began "as a personal dispute between several employees" in a privately-managed dormitory for workers. Other reports said the row was believed to have been sparked by workers from Shandong province clashing with their counterparts from Henan province. Regional rivalries are often strained in China, but tensions can be heightened by living in the cramped, single-sex dormitories that house employees.
However, comments on online forums alleged that security guards at the plant had beaten workers, prompting the dispute to escalate.
China's Xinhua news agency said fighting broke out at around 11pm on Sunday night "attracting more than 10,000 spectators and triggering chaos". Video footage posted online purportedly showed broken factory windows, crowds of workers and an overturned police car. Forty people were injured, three seriously, a senior government official said. "Around 5,000 policemen were sent to the scene, bringing it under control at 9 am Monday," Xinhua added.
Foxconn, owned by Taiwanese tycoon Terry Gou, is the world's largest maker of computer components, employing 1.3 million people worldwide, around one million of them in China. Two years ago, it was criticised over working conditions after a string of 13 suicides by employees at the company's plants in southern China.
It is in plants such as the Taiyuan facility in Shanxi province that Apple's new iPhones are assembled, as well as Sony PlayStations and Hewlett-Packard PCs. The plant employs 79,000 people.Reuse content