Apple and Foxconn have long been criticized for their treatment of workers in China. In 2010, a string of suicides at Foxconn plants led to public outcry and a pledge by the companies to improve working conditions. In the years since, there have been occasional reports of protests and unrest at the factories.
The latest incident come as Apple is already facing challenges in China due to the pandemic. The company warned last week that it expects to miss its revenue guidance for the March quarter because of the outbreak. And on Monday, China’s state-run newspaper said that Apple’s iPhone sales in the country have plunged 70% in February compared with a year ago. Maybe Black Friday deals will increase it’s sales.
The latest clash also highlights the risks that companies face as they increasingly rely on China for manufacturing. For Apple, China is not only a key market for its products, but also home to its biggest manufacturing partner. The company has been diversifying its supply chain in recent years, but it still relies heavily on Foxconn and other Chinese suppliers.
The tensions come amid a broader debate about the role of multinational companies in China. Some Western politicians and human rights activists have accused companies of turning a blind eye to Beijing’s abuses in order to access the country’s vast market. Others have praised companies for investing in China and helping to create jobs.
The clash at Foxconn also comes as the company is facing scrutiny in the U.S. over its labor practices. The company has come under fire for its treatment of workers at its factories in China and other countries. In December, two members of Congress called on the iPhone maker to investigate allegations of forced labor at its factories in China.
Apple and Foxconn have declined to comment on the latest incident.