Tue, Sep 25, 2012 - Page 1 News List

Foxconn closes China plant after 2,000 worker brawl

ROW TURNS VIOLENT:Witnesses say the huge brawl was sparked by security guards nearly beating a worker to death, but Xinhua said they had first fought each other

By Clare Jim  /  Reuters, TAIPEI

Taiwan’s Foxconn Technology Group (富士康科技集團), which assembles Apple’s iPhones and makes components for top global electronics companies, closed a plant in China yesterday after about 2,000 workers were involved in a brawl at a company dormitory.

It was not clear how long the shutdown would last at the plant, which employs about 79,000 people in Taiyuan, China, while police and company officials investigate the cause of the disturbance.

Foxconn said the trouble started with a personal row that blew up into a brawl. However, some people posting messages on a Twitter-like site said factory guards had beaten workers and that sparked the melee.

“The plant is closed today for investigation,” Foxconn spokesman Louis Woo (胡國輝) said.

An employee contacted by telephone said the closure could last two or three days.

Pictures from just outside the plant and provided to Reuters showed broken windows at a building by an entrance gate and a line of olive-colored paramilitary police trucks parked inside the factory grounds.

The unrest is the latest in a string of incidents at plants run by Foxconn, the trading name of Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海精密) and the world’s largest contract maker of electronic goods. Hon Hai’s Taipei-listed shares fell 1 percent yesterday in a broader market that rose 0.2 percent.

Drawing attention as a supplier and assembler for Apple products, the company has faced accusations of poor conditions and mistreatment of workers at its operations in China, where it employs about 1 million workers.

The company has been spending heavily in recent months to improve working conditions and to raise wages. Foxconn said in a statement the incident escalated from what it called a personal dispute between several employees at about 11pm on Sunday in a privately managed dormitory and it was brought under control by police at about 3am.

“The cause of this dispute is under investigation by local authorities and we are working closely with them in this process, but it appears not to have been work-related,” Foxconn said.

Hon Hai said about 2,000 workers were involved. However, comments posted online suggested security guards may have been to blame.

In a posting on the Chinese Twitter-like microblog site Sina Weibo (新浪微博), user “Jo-Liang” said that four or five security guards beat a worker almost to death.

Another user, “Fan de Sa Hai,” quoted a friend from Taiyuan as saying guards beat up two workers from Henan Province and in response, other workers set bed quilts on fire and tossed them out of dormitory windows.

The accounts could not be independently confirmed.

The state-run Xinhua news agency quoted a senior official with the Taiyuan city government as saying investigators initially determined the fight broke out as workers from Shandong Province clashed with workers from Henan.

The agency reported earlier that about 5,000 police were sent to end the violence, according to Taiyuan City’s public security bureau.

Foxconn cited police as saying 40 people were taken to hospital and a number were arrested, while Xinhua added that three people were in serious condition.

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