The convenience store reportedly damaged during the riot. (Internet photo)
Thousands of riot officers were reportedly called to secure the premises. (Internet photo)
More than 2,000 workers at Foxconn's Taiyuan factory in the northern Chinese province of Shanxi were involved in a mass brawl in the early hours of Monday morning, which saw thousands of armed riot police called to the area to restore order.
Foxconn spokesperson Louis Woo admitted that an incident took place early on Monday morning, which he described as a group confrontation near the staff dormitories between workers from different production lines.
"The cause of the dispute is being investigated by the local authorities and we are working closely with them in this process, but it appears not to have been work-related," Foxconn said in a statement released on Monday afternoon.
China's official Xinhua news agency on Monday afternoon reported that 40 people were injured in a fight "between workers" that attracted more than 10,000 spectators. The 5,000 police who were sent to the scene managed to bring the chaos under control by 9am, the agency added. Three men reportedly remain in a serious condition.
A government official told Xinhua that an initial investigation found that the fight arose out of a dispute between workers from Shandong province and workers from Henan province. The official also refuted reports that the plant was shut down, saying that it was operating as per usual.
Boxun, an anonymously sourced Chinese-language citizen journalism site, claims the riot began shortly before midnight on Sunday, causing severe damage to facilities at the Taiyuan plant and its security office. Sources say ambulances were seen on site and that many workers and onlookers were still refusing to leave by 3am on Monday morning.
The incident has been a hot topic of conversation on Sina Weibo, China's leading equivalent of Twitter. Photos of a trashed convenience store and other property were posted online, with some claiming that rioters also damaged vehicles including a police car. Some posts claimed that there were at least six deaths. One user claimed that Shanxi governor Wang Jun was called to the scene in the middle of the night.
Boxun and Sina Weibo users speculated that the riot was sparked when two workers from Henan province were allegedly beaten by security guards at around 10pm Sunday night, though the underlying cause of the riot is believed to be related to pay and working conditions, Boxun said.
Foxconn's Taiyuan plant, one of its more recently established production bases, experienced a worker strike over pay in March. Security officials also reportedly stamped out unrest at the company's Chengdu offices in June, allegedly started over a dispute between factory workers and a restaurant owner in the technology park, though that incident was much smaller in scale than internet rumors subsequently suggested.
The mass brawl comes after another incident on Sept. 12, in which a young male worker fell to his death from a Foxconn dormitory in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen.
Taiwan-based Foxconn is the world's largest maker of electronic components and is a major contract manufacturer of Apple's popular devices such as the iPhone and iPad. The 79,000 staff at its Taiyuan factory are largely responsible for assembling automobile electronic components, consumer electronic components and precision moldings. A Foxconn spokesperson refused to confirm whether the factory was manufacturing Apple's latest iPhone 5, which was released in nine countries and territories last Friday.