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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 akugami on 7/21/2009 3:57:02 PM , Rating: 5
I am Chinese and I take exception to that comment. I'm not saying the Chinese are the nicest people in the world, far from it in fact, but we're no more prone to torturing people than any other race or culture.

Look at the history books and you'll see most cultures and races have a bloody past. The Chinese are no exception. To a degree, China as it currently exists was brought about by western influences. Don't get me wrong, many of the influences were beneficial. Western countries improved upon many Chinese inventions and of course the original ideas or inventions were Chinese so China as well as the western countries benefited.

Then there was the negatives such as the Opium Wars where Britain defied China's drug laws and smuggled Opium into China. This eventually led to war and China's defeat as well as the spiral that signaled the fall of Imperial China and later the rise of Communist China.

While I'm not condoning some of the acts of the current Chinese government, the Chinese people as a whole are not evil nor do we relish in torturing our own or even other peoples.

By AlmostExAMD on 7/22/2009 3:10:01 AM , Rating: 3

By TSS on 7/22/2009 7:41:05 AM , Rating: 2
chinese people !== chinese government. they might be turning kapitalist, but it's still ways off from a democracy.

By alexfenway on 7/22/2009 11:13:42 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, having lived in china my experience is Chinese people are good and kind, and will take very good care of people in their relational circles. However, there seems to be a lack of compassion and concern for strangers, like they can't quite sympathize with others well. Perhaps that is why so many of their police officers are capable of horrible tortures of men and women who have only committed political wrongs and have not done anything immoral. In short, Chinese are some of my favorite people, but I'm concerned about how they treat strangers.

"We are going to continue to work with them to make sure they understand the reality of the Internet.  A lot of these people don't have Ph.Ds, and they don't have a degree in computer science." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis
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