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Raging riot

Workers clean up glass shards near an entrance of a Foxconn Tech- Industry Park today.

TAIYUAN, China/TAIPEI – About 2,000 Chinese employees of an iPhone assembly company fought a pitched battle into the early hours of today, forcing the huge electronics plant where they work to be shut down.

Authorities in the northern city of Taiyuan sent 5,000 police to restore order after what the plant’s Taiwanese owners Foxconn Technology Group said was a personal dispute in a dormitory that erupted into a mass brawl.

However, some employees and people posting messages online accused factory guards of provoking the trouble by beating up workers at the factory, which employs about 79,000 people and is owned by the world’s largest contract maker of electronic goods.

“The plant is closed today for investigation,” Foxconn spokesman Louis Woo told Reuters. It was not clear how long the plant would be shut while police and company officials investigate the violence, but an employee contacted by telephone said the closure could last two or three days.

Foxconn cited police as saying that 40 people were taken to hospital and a number were arrested, while the state-run Xinhua news agency reported three people were in serious condition.

The unrest is the latest in a string of incidents at plants run by Foxconn, the trading name of Hon Hai Precision Industry Co whose shares fell 1 per cent today in a broader market that rose 0.2 per cent.

This evening, paramilitary police with riot shields, helmets and batons guarded one entrance of the massive factory complex, while an announcement over loudspeakers said there had been a criminal incident the night before and urged people to respect the law.

The windows of at least three gates’ guard posts had been smashed, piles of glass littering the ground around them, and the railings of some gates lie flat on the ground, having been bent over.

Foxconn, which assembles Apple’s iPhones as well as making components for other global electronics firms, has faced accusations of poor conditions and mistreatment of workers at its operations in China, where it employs about 1 million people.

The company says it 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 around 11 p.m. on Sunday in the privately-managed dormitory, and was brought under control by police at around 3 a.m. (Reuters)

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