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.

Some of the damage from last night's riots.
Some of the damage from last night's riots. Photograph: weibo.com/u/1681586575

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.