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This Chinese story is full of crazy twists

Apple is apparently hard at work cooking up what will become the successor to the iPhone 3G S.  In China, an army of parts designers are working on the phone's circuit boards and components.  Leading them is Foxconn in Shenzhen, a city in the industry-heavy Guangdong province near Hong Kong.

At Foxconn, a 25-year-old college graduate working in product communications, Yong Sun Dan, was in charge of the phone's prototypes.  On Thursday, July 9, he set out to pick up 16 prototype units from the factory.  He would later discover that one was missing according to DigitalBeat.  His theory was that he left it at the factory.  On Monday, July 13 he unhappily reported it to his boss.

Two days later, three Foxconn employees broke into his apartment and searched it.  Sun, according to an IM exchange, also may have been detained and physically abused during the search. 

The story came to an end of Thursday at 3 a.m. when Yong Sun Dan leapt from the window of his apartment building to his death.  The tragic story showcases the potentially deadly game of intrigue and leaks that blog sites play.  On the other side of the aisle, it shows the tremendous pressure that manufacturers like Foxconn feel about defending the secrecy of its star products.

Steven Lin, a Chinese blogger and marketer, perhaps sums it up best, writing:

Students [like Sun] have been studying in schools for years, and they have been carefully protected by their parents. They can’t endure such pressure - ‘their house being illegally searched,’ or ‘house arrests’ (if that’s true, according some reports news). Employees at these and other factories sometimes kill themselves simply because of the pressure from their daily jobs — you know what’s going to happen when they face more serious threats. Also, most young Chinese guys don’t have friends who are lawyers, so they don’t know how to protect themselves in the legal system. They won’t even look for help from the legal system. They will just endure the pressure, and finally find an extreme way to end all their troubles.

The security division at Foxconn -- the so-called Gu Central Security Division -- has been suspended without pay.  Foxconn Technology Group chief executive, general manager of business and Li Jinming has personally apologized as well to the loved ones of the deceased and says the death greatly distressed him.

In the end, the mysterious death of Sun stands out as a shocking story, even in a country that publicly executed its quality control minister for accepting bribes and allowing contaminated antibiotics onto the market a mere year ago.  Was the foul play greater than it seemed?  What really happened to the phone?  We may never know, but the story will hopefully pressure China's tech industry to reform its ways.

Updated 7/21/2009
Apple has released a statement to CNET regarding the death. "We are saddened by the tragic loss of this young employee, and we are awaiting results of the investigations into his death. We require our suppliers to treat all workers with dignity and respect," said Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet.

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By CSQuake on 7/21/2009 11:58:12 AM , Rating: 0
I'm saying the possibe cause of his suicide (-conspiracy theories) is not cowardice but a mental disorder.

By Smilin on 7/21/2009 12:38:35 PM , Rating: 3
A disorder could be the cause the act of cowardice but it remains cowardice.

Asking for help would be embarrasing and on some level admitting there is something wrong with you. Asking for help despite these tough consequences would be the true act of bravery.

By erple2 on 7/21/2009 4:08:00 PM , Rating: 2
And in a non-Chinese society, I'd agree with you. However, I don't know how Chinese society and culture values the life of the individual over the collective whole, as I'm not Chinese. I can say here that there's no bravery in suicide, but that's my Western Social Philosophy slant. Eastern Social Philosophy has a very different take on the value of human life.

You can liken this to Honor/Dishonor, I suppose - is it perceived in the society to be more dishonorable to kill one's self over an incident than to face the result of your actions, or is it less dishonorable? How does Honor play a part in one's self-being, from a societal standpoint? These are questions I don't know the answer to.

I can give you my Western take on that. It's generally not very brave to take one's own life. I suppose one could cook up a couple of exceptions, though. Asking for help in a society that values some notion of your own strength over other things means that asking for help may be a larger dishonor than simply offing yourself. I don't know. And, I think that you don't either.

"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov
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