Apple and its Chinese iPhone manufacturer Foxconn made headlines when an employee Danyong Sun committed suicide. The circumstances were anything but ordinary. Mr. Sun had been given a set of never-before-seen iPhone fourth generation prototypes to deliver for testing. He lost one of these prototypes and was subsequently the victim of a burglary and assault, reportedly by his employer's security division. He then committed suicide.
Following initial statements by Foxconn and Apple, new details have emerged. Foxconn has announced that it will pay off the family of Mr. Sun in hopes of laying the matter quietly to rest. It has agreed to pay his parents a lump sum of $52,000 and a yearly payment of $4,400 for the rest of their lives.
The government is still investigating the incident. Apple says it will wait until that investigation finishes before it takes action. The main subject of the investigations is Mr. Gun Qinmin a security supervisor. Mr. Qinmin insists that he's innocent, though he admits to sending people to search Mr. Sun's office.
The average salary of a worker in one of China's cities was 5,000 yuan ($3,560 USD) in 2007
The incident continues to highlight both Apple's veil of secrecy about its products and the pressures that young engineers in China face. Officials with both Chinese companies and government agencies have a history of taking severe tactics at times to stomp out improper behavior. China publicly executed its former food and drug administration head in 2007 when he was found guilty of taking bribes.
Despite the potential dangers associated with manufacturing products in China, most major electronics manufacturers build their products in China due to the lower cost of skilled labor. Product design and testing is also increasingly being sourced to China.