News of the suicide of Chinese worker Sun Danyong last Thursday after his employer accused him of stealing an Apple iPhone prototype has caused quite a stir in Chinese media and online community.
Sun was a recent engineering graduate and worked in Taiwan-based company Foxconn, which manufactures products for Apple. Sun jumped out of the window of his apartment last Thursday days after a senior security official had detained and beat him after one of sixteen iPhone prototypes under Sun’s possession went missing.
Here is a report from WSJ:
News media in China are reporting that a 25-year-old employee of Foxconn, which manufactures products for Apple there, committed suicide last week after being interrogated about a missing prototype for a new iPhone.
According to publications that include the Shanghai Daily, Sun Danyong, a recent engineering graduate, jumped out of the window of his apartment last Thursday. The reports said Sun, who had been tasked with sending iPhone prototypes to Apple, had been under suspicion for stealing after one of the handsets went missing. Some publications reported that, in the days prior to his suicide, Sun had been detained and beaten by a senior official in the security department of the Taiwan-based electronics manufacturing giant.
Foxconn could not be reached for comment. But some reports quoted a statement from Foxconn general manager Li Jinming, who apologized for what happened and attributed the incident to a lack of management. He added that the official who had questioned Sun has been suspended and is under investigation by the police.
A spokesman for Apple said, “We are saddened by the tragic loss of this young employee and we are awaiting results of the investigations into his death. We require that our suppliers treat all workers with dignity and respect.”
Some English-language blogs, including Gizmodo and Apple Insider, were critical of Foxconn’s handling of the situation, pointing out that the manufacturer has run into accusations of harsh working conditions before. Others, such as VentureBeat, pointed to the pressure that Foxconn and other contract manufacturers face to adhere to Apple’s secrecy over its products.
Apple is known for requiring suppliers to sign contracts that impose hefty financial penalties if they are found to have leaked sensitive information. One Western expat in China says that the accusation of stealing alone would have been severely damaging for the employee, who was likely on an elite track working in a career job for one of Asia’s premier firms.
Foxconn spokesperson Li Jinming told reporters “regardless of the reason of Sun’s suicide, it is to some extent a reflection of Foxconn’s internal management deficiencies, especially in how to help young workers cope with the psychological pressures of working life at the company.”
Do you agree that this suicide is an indication of something terribly wrong specifically with Foxconn?
Or does it reflect more generally of the ill treatment by non-mainland companies? (Many non-mainland companies mistreated mainland workers by packing up and leaving without paying its workers when the going began to get tough last year.)
Does it reflect more on Apple’s tendency to be super secretive and paranoid about new product releases? Do you think Apple’s pressure on its suppliers (or see here) to maintain absolute secrecy created the conditions that pushed Sun to commit suicide?
Or does Sun’s unfortuante death simply reflect China’s general problem involving youth suicide?