Workers battle police at Chinese coronavirus test kit factory

A clash between protesting workers and police broke out at a coronavirus test kit factory in Chongqing, China, on Saturday.

Video clips smuggled past Chinese censors showed angry workers throwing improvised weapons at uniformed officers, who used loudspeakers to order the protesters to stop their “illegal activities”.

The plant is owned by a Chongqing-based company called Zybio (sometimes rendered as ZY Bio). The company has not responded to inquiries from Agence France-Presse (AFP) about the demonstration.

AFP noted local commentators insisted the protest was not political in nature but merely a dispute over unpaid back wages, but China’s vast censorship apparatus worked hard to ensure the rest of the country did not hear about it:

The hashtag “Chongqing Dadukou Pharmaceutical Factory” appeared to be censored on the popular Weibo social media platform on Sunday, with only one post from the previous day still visible describing the protest as an “interesting topic.”

A video posted on a TikTok account belonging to a state-owned news outlet showed what it claimed was a street full of antigen tests in an industrial park in Chongqing.

“Sources say a labor dispute sparked conflict,” the caption read. The video was taken down within hours.

AFP compared the Chongqing protest to demonstrations and riots at Foxconn’s iPhone factory in Zhengzhou, which began with workers fleeing a brutal coronavirus shutdown in the city’s industrial sector and later turned into an angry protest by new workers who complained the company was not paying the bonuses offered to new hires and returning employees .

A video from Chongqing quoted by BBC on Monday featured a crowd of protesters chanting, “Give us the money back.” A caption included in one of the local videos claimed this was a reference to “unpaid wages”.

The political angle of the Chongqing protest appears to be that the Chinese government encouraged greater production from medical equipment suppliers to cope with the massive coronavirus surge that began to rise late last year – but then canceled those orders when Beijing decided to immediately abandon most of the epidemic protocols and open the borders.

“After the sudden easing of anti-[coronavirus] restrictions a month ago, following grassroots protests in late November, demand for test kits and other materials to trace the SARS-CoV-2 virus collapsed, with production lines idled,” Asia news reported Monday.

This apparently prompted companies like Zybio to renege on wage promises and lay off thousands of workers they employed before Beijing decided to abandon mass coronavirus testing:

Similar confrontations are reportedly occurring at other Chinese companies as the huge projected demand for government-mandated testing plummets to zero:

These reported labor disputes are consistent with many other complaints that China changed its coronavirus policy too suddenly, with essentially zero time for anyone to prepare, creating both massive health problems and economic disruptions.

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