Indian Lawmaker: iPhone Factory Riot Was Chinese Conspiracy to Hurt India

People exit from the gate of Wistron, a Taiwanese-run iPhone factory at Narsapura, about 60 km from Bangalore on December 13, 2020. - Authorities vowed to crack down on workers who went on a violent rampage at a Taiwanese-run iPhone factory in southern India over allegations of unpaid wages and …
MANJUNATH KIRAN/AFP via Getty Images

Sadappa Muniswamy, a member of the Indian parliament who belongs to the governing BJP party, said Monday that recent labor disputes — including the December 12 riot at a factory near Bangalore that supplies components for Apple iPhones — have been instigated by Chinese saboteurs who want to dissuade foreign companies from relocating their operations to India.

“They didn’t make proper payments to laborers so it happened,” Muniswamy said of the demonstration in December at a plant owned by Apple supplier Wistron Infocomm Manufacturing, a company headquartered in China.

The Wistron demonstrators were indeed angry about unpaid wages. Their protest turned into a violent clash with police and a vandalism spree that inflicted considerable damage on the factory. Apple quickly announced an investigation of Wistron for potentially violating its supplier guidelines for how workers must be treated, and the company admitted there were problems with paying many of its workers, blaming a third-party employment company for mishandling their salaries.

Muriswamy continued his remarks Monday by alleging that “communists” joined the Wistron demonstrators, using Facebook and WhatsApp to coordinate their activities.

“I think it’s linked to China,” he said. “It’s working with communists to ensure other companies don’t come to India.”

Muriswamy was referring to reports in December that local police traced some of the vandalism at the Wistron plant to members of the Students’ Federation of India (SFI), a group affiliated with the Communist Party of India. The president of the local chapter of the SFI, who goes by the single name “Srikanth,” was arrested on December 17. The charges leveled against him included organizing the violent protest by sending WhatsApp messages to Wistron employees.

The SFL denounced Srikanth’s arrest as “politically motivated” and accused the police of “protecting the interests of capitalists” by helping them “conceal the heinous violation of workers’ laws in the company of Wistron.”

Muriswamy expanded his critique to include farmworkers who have been vigorously protesting against new agriculture laws since November.

“Farmers who are protesting at the borders of Delhi have been paid and brought to the agitation sites,” he charged. “They are middlemen and fake farmers. They are eating pizza, burgers, and KFC products, and have set up a gym there. This drama should stop.”

Visitors to the long-standing farm protest sites have reported seeing makeshift gyms, massage centers, open-air theaters, and food kiosks at the camps, some of which are almost three months old and have acquired a “fair-like” atmosphere. Numerous visitors to the protest camps have commented on the popularity of pizza. 

Another BJP politician, Madan Dilawar, said Saturday that the farm protests were fake, although he accused them of “enjoying chicken biryani” rather than Kentucky Fried Chicken.

“There may be terrorists, robbers, and thieves among them and they may also be enemies of farmers. All these people want to ruin the country. If the government doesn’t remove them from the agitation sites, then bird flu can become a big problem,” Dilawar warned.

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