Show Hide image

Riots break out at iPhone 5 factory

2,000 workers were involved in riots at a Foxconn factory in China's Shanxi province, reportedly involved in manufacturing the new iPhone.

40 workers at a factory of electronics manufacturer Foxconn in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, China have been hospitalised after a fight broke out among as many as 2000 employees, according to reports from Bloomberg. The fight at the company, which assembles products from most major electronics corporations, including, notably, Apple, started between "rival worker groups" at 11pm last night, and escalated for the next four hours until security and police restored control.

Bloomberg's Tim Culpan writes:

The cause of the fight was not immediately clear, while Foxconn is assisting a police investigation of the matter, Woo said. Union representatives will be sent to the site today to discuss the situation with workers, he said.

Following the problems, the decision was made to temporarily shut the site:

“We want to give people time to cool down,” Louis Woo, spokesman for Taipei-based Foxconn said by phone. Chairman Terry Gou was informed of the incident at about 5 a.m. and agreed with the decision to halt production.

However, a rather different story was emerging on Sina Weibo, China's homespun Twitter. There, workers were sharing pictures that look less like a "fight between rival groups" and more like a full-blown riot – one which was reportedly triggered by security guards attacking a worker, reports Engadget's Richard Lai, who also throws some light on the background of the plant:

An undercover report from August mentioned that the Taiyuan plant processed the back casing of the iPhone 5. It also highlighted the company's harsh management as well as "practically compulsory" over-time work. We don't doubt that this riot escalated due to dissatisfaction over working conditions.

An official statement from the company is expected today, but with the Chinese censorship machine already kicking into action on Sina Weibo, expect a watered-down version of the truth at best.

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

Photo: Getty Images
Show Hide image

When will the government take action to tackle the plight of circus animals?

Britain is lagging behind the rest of the world - and innocent animals are paying the price. 

It has been more than a year since the Prime Minister reiterated his commitment to passing legislation to impose a ban on the suffering of circus animals in England and Wales. How long does it take to get something done in Parliament?

I was an MP for more than two decades, so that’s a rhetorical question. I’m well aware that important issues like this one can drag on, but the continued lack of action to help stop the suffering of animals in circuses is indefensible.

Although the vast majority of the British public doesn’t want wild animals used in circuses (a public consultation on the issue found that more than 94 per cent of the public wanted to see a ban implemented and the Prime Minister promised to prohibit the practice by January 2015, no government bill on this issue was introduced during the last parliament.

A private member’s bill, introduced in 2013, was repeatedly blocked in the House of Commons by three MPs, so it needs a government bill to be laid if we are to have any hope of seeing this practice banned.

This colossal waste of time shames Britain, while all around the world, governments have been taking decisive action to stop the abuse of wild animals in circuses. Just last month, Catalonia’s Parliament overwhelmingly voted to ban it. While our own lawmakers dragged their feet, the Netherlands approved a ban that comes into effect later this year, as did Malta and Mexico. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, North America’s longest-running circus, has pledged to retire all the elephants it uses by 2018. Even in Iran, a country with precious few animal-welfare laws, 14 states have banned this archaic form of entertainment. Are we really lagging behind Iran?

The writing has long been on the wall. Only two English circuses are still clinging to this antiquated tradition of using wild animals, so implementing a ban would have very little bearing on businesses operating in England and Wales. But it would have a very positive impact on the animals still being exploited.

Every day that this legislation is delayed is another one of misery for the large wild animals, including tigers, being hauled around the country in circus wagons. Existing in cramped cages and denied everything that gives their lives meaning, animals become lethargic and depressed. Their spirits broken, many develop neurotic and abnormal behaviour, such as biting the bars of their cages and constantly pacing. It’s little wonder that such tormented creatures die far short of their natural life spans.

Watching a tiger jump through a fiery hoop may be entertaining to some, but we should all be aware of what it entails for the animal. UK laws require that animals be provided with a good quality of life, but the cruelty inherent in confining big, wild animals, who would roam miles in the wild, to small, cramped spaces and forcing them to engage in unnatural and confusing spectacles makes that impossible in circuses.

Those who agree with me can join PETA’s campaign to urge government to listen to the public and give such animals a chance to live as nature intended.


The Right Honourable Ann Widdecombe was an MP for 23 years and served as Shadow Home Secretary. She is a novelist, documentary maker and newspaper columnist.