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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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This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

By Eris23007 on 7/22/2009 5:54:15 PM , Rating: 1
Perhaps my comment would have been better posted in response to one of the "cowardice" comments, as it was more in response to the some of some of said comments, e.g.:

When this guy obviously couldn't handle the pressure/ridicule, more probably the stress his brain was under - seeing as the story already explains the pressure the workers are under ...


Am I the only person that read the article and interpreted this poor individual's suicide as a direct result of the violation he experienced from those that broke and entered his home and allegedly abused him?

The guy wasn't a victim. He screwed up and couldn't deal with the consequences. Instead of facing the music and dealing with the repercussions, he, as you put it, offed himself. Probably not the best solution to the situation, but for any one of a host of reasons it's what he did. I'm certainly sympathetic to his family & friends, having to deal with the aftermath, but all the "this poor guy is a victim of <society, company, culture, whatever>" stuff just gives him a pass for screwing up in the first place.

Far worse, that isn't forgiveness - people aren't saying "well, you screwed up, but people make mistakes, here's a way you can make amends, show contrition, and try to rectify the situation." Instead it's blame-shifting - "it wasn't really his fault" for whatever reason.

I'll cop to it - I could have made this point much more clearly - and my original post leaves out the notion of forgiveness, which is an essential element. All I'm asking is for people to admit when they make a mistake and ask for forgiveness instead of shifting the blame or asking for sympathy/pity/whatever. That's called taking responsibility for your actions. Take this as an example: I made some mistakes in my original post (rants have a way of getting off track) and am attempting to correct them. If I made mistakes in this one, which I probably did, I'll do my best to correct them again in a future post.

And BTW, despite the "Rush" reference, this isn't a political issue - it's a matter of personal, individual ethics. Not everything is an issue of right vs. left or Democrats vs. Republicans (I'm neither). Some things are just about being an adult and taking responsibility for yourself instead of looking to everyone else to do it for you.

"Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be." -- Steve Ballmer
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