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Coronavirus Lockdown in Shanghai Triggers Riot at MacBook Factory

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Hundreds of employees at the Shanghai factory of Taiwan-based Quanta Computer Inc. rioted over the weekend, pushing past barricades and clashing with police in an eruption of frustration after six weeks of punishing coronavirus lockdowns.

The unrest reportedly began on Thursday evening at the Shanghai Dafeng Electronics factory, a Quanta subsidiary and a major supplier of Apple MacBook computers.

The employees were evidently frustrated with the “closed-loop management system” that forced them to live on factory premises, so hundreds of them pushed through security barricades and made a dash for the outside world.

Workers interviewed by Shanghai media said they were apprehensive about even tighter lockdown restrictions being imposed on the factory because some positive Chinese coronavirus tests had been reported among the staff. 

Some employees also said they were exhausted from working extremely long shifts at the sealed factory. The clash on Thursday night reportedly began when tired employees were blocked from returning to their dormitories after working their shifts, causing the nervous workers to assume they were about to be locked up in a full quarantine.

The factory riot was a stunning display of disobedience, given the harsh punishments threatened for those who violate China’s lockdown orders. Numerous videos of smaller-scale acts of defiance and despair have leaked through China’s social media censorship barrier over the past few weeks, including scuffles with officials, protest chants, residents complaining about shortages of food and medicine, and police abusing citizens.

Discontent with the “closed-loop” approach to factory management is growing among thousands of Shanghai residents forced to work under such conditions, including employees at huge operations like Tesla’s “Gigafactory.”

An aerial view of Tesla Shanghai Gigafactory on March 29, 2021, in Shanghai, China. (Xiaolu Chu/Getty Images)

Reuters reported on Tuesday that production at the Tesla Gigafactory has almost completely halted due to supply problems after three weeks of captive employees working brutal 12-hour, six-day shifts under closed-loop quarantine. Quanta is one of Tesla’s suppliers.

Tensions reportedly rose across Shanghai on Monday as even more punishing restrictions were imposed. 

Chinese Communist censors struggled to delete all of the explosive social media posts from angry and frightened Shanghai residents, including videos of ugly quarantine centers, entire residential complexes sealed off because a few residents tested positive, and “Big Whites” – the local nickname for hazmat-suited lockdown enforces – shoving past enraged residents to spray their homes with disinfectant.

On Sunday, a group of Chinese academics wrote an open letter accusing the government of violating China’s constitution with its draconian lockdown policies, paving the way for “some kind of legal disaster.” The letter was aggressively hunted down and deleted by Communist censors, but it was reposted so many times by Shanghai residents that it could not be completely suppressed.


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