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Chinese Employee Loses iPhone Prototype, Kills Self 514

Posted by kdawson
from the taking-the-job-way-too-seriously dept.
tlhIngan writes "Physical intimidation of a Foxconn employee, 25 year-old Sun Danyong, and a possibly-illegal search of his house may have led to suicide after an iPhone prototype in his possession was lost. Foxconn is Apple's long-time manufacturing partner for the iPhone. Entrusted with 16 iPhone prototypes, Danyong discovered that one was missing and searched the factory for it. When it didn't turn up, he reported the incident to his boss, who ordered his apartment searched. There are reports of physical intimidation by Foxconn security personnel. This ended tragically on Thursday at 3 AM, when Danyong jumped from his apartment building to his death." VentureBeat notes that "Apple exerts immense pressure on its business partners [to] help it maintain secrecy." An Apple spokesperson said this to CNet: "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."
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Chinese Employee Loses iPhone Prototype, Kills Self

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  • Suicide? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @02:46PM (#28773793)

    There's an app for that...

  • Poor guy... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Starturtle (1148659) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @02:48PM (#28773815) Homepage
    ...probably the only way he could save his family from being threatened.
    • Re:Poor guy... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by FooAtWFU (699187) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @02:59PM (#28773937) Homepage

      I don't like playing cultural imperialist, but something about current Asian cultures seems to me to be broken: this isn't exactly the first suicide of its sort, or even an uncommon phenomenon, just one of the more high-profile cases (since it's Apple, and a senior guy). Western culture isn't immune to these effects either (cf. high-profile financial advisors committing suicide in 2008-2009), but I understand that it's significantly more of an issue in Asia. I'd hazard that it's something in the common implementation of 'honor' and self-value that predisposes people towards a massive breakdown in the face of 'public disgrace'.

      Not that Americans couldn't use a bit more of the right sort of Honor in their regimen, mind you.

      • Re:Poor guy... (Score:5, Informative)

        by LunaticTippy (872397) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @03:13PM (#28774111)
        I had the same misconception but it is easily dispersed.

        According to this [who.int] the top 7 are not Asian. China is way down there, below France, Poland, Switzerland, Uruguay.

        Country, Male Suicide per 100k, Female suicide per 100k, total pop suicide per 100k, year
        Lithuania 68.1 12.9 38.6 2005
        Belarus 63.3 10.3 35.1 2003
        Russia 58.1 9.8 32.2 2005
        Slovenia 42.1 11.1 26.3 2006
        Hungary 42.3 11.2 26.0 2005
        Kazakhstan 45.0 8.1 25.9 2005
        Latvia 42.0 9.6 24.5 2005
        Japan 34.8 13.2 23.7 2006

        I assumed the suicide rate would be much higher in Asia, but I guess it is just reported more or happens in more high-profile cases or something.
        • by xednieht (1117791) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @03:52PM (#28774691) Homepage
          Looks to me like the female segment of the population is not pulling their weight
        • Re:Poor guy... (Score:4, Interesting)

          by oldhack (1037484) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @04:03PM (#28774847)
          That seems to track alcohol consumption.
        • Re:Poor guy... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki&gmail,com> on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @04:43PM (#28775397) Homepage

          Just an FYI, in Asia most suicides are classified as something else in true crime rates. In order to affect a lower suicide rate in the overall data trending. European data trending can be higher because they sometimes include 'other' crimes into their suicide figures during data reporting.

          Never trust data, unless you see the raw data sets yourself.

        • Top 5, not Top 7 (Score:3, Informative)

          by Mal-2 (675116)

          Your top five are not in Asia. You may not think of it as such, but Kazakhstan is most definitely an Asian country.

          Mal-2

        • Re:Poor guy... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by jrumney (197329) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @07:02PM (#28776765) Homepage
          The profile of who is committing suicide tells the full story. In Western countries, it is overwhelmingly young (teenage to early twenties) males, followed by young females. This coincides with the most emotionally unstable period of most peoples lives. In Japan (and possibly other Asian cultures), the figures are overwhelmingly dominated by middle aged men - middle to senior management and politicians who are under a lot of pressure not to let their company or country down.
      • Re:Poor guy... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by theheadlessrabbit (1022587) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @04:00PM (#28774801) Homepage Journal

        in South Korea, the time of year when students get their report carts is known as 'jumping season'

      • Re:Poor guy... (Score:5, Interesting)

        I don't like playing cultural imperialist, but something about current Asian cultures seems to me to be broken

        It's not the culture, it's the demographics.

        Take China. Population 1.3 billion. But only 500 million of those are really taking part in the new economy. The other 800 million live in rural poverty. In fact, most of the 500 million who aren't, typically don't fare much better.

        What does this mean in practical terms? It means that unless you are incredibly well educated, connected or monied, you are very, very expendable. There are literally ten people lined up behind you waiting for the same job, which means unless you are prepared to work enormous hours, under extreme pressure, in terrible conditions, you won't get it.

        I had a talk with someone recently back from a business trip to Shanghai. Their group took a short walk through the city one evening, between the rows of shining new skyscrapers that carpet the metropolitan area. As they walked, they could see into offices where employees could be seen through the windows, sleeping on the desks they had been working at all day. How are you supposed to compete with that?

        China is witnessing the kind of rapid capitalism not seen in the world since the 1890's. An economy where labour is cheap and people are treated worse and paid less because there are so many others, literally hungry enough to so the same for even less than that. The kind of capitalism that gave rise to theories like Say's Law [wikipedia.org], which held you could never have massive unemployment because there would always be people willing to work for a bowl of rice a day.

        And do you know what the most ironic thing about this whole state of affairs is? China has never actually had a communist revolution.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by ablmf (1263606)
          I am Chinese and I think you really understand what is happening here. But it's really hard to find a way out. If we have more protection of employees, higher salaries, less working hours, it will definitely make massive unemployment. The point is, if we do think all people are born EQUAL, we should accept that, some one work harder and require less will get the job, the ones who works less but earn much more salary will lost his job, even if they are your fellow citizens.
          • Re:Poor guy... (Score:4, Insightful)

            by ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) <obsessivemathsfreakNO@SPAMeircom.net> on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @09:49AM (#28781789) Homepage Journal

            If we have more protection of employees, higher salaries, less working hours, it will definitely make massive unemployment.

            I think this a fallacy promoted by those who want to maintain profit margins. If this were true, then we should expect to see mass unemployment in most western countries where these protections apply. But we don't. And while it's true that many jobs have gone to China, one could make the case that the average Chinese worker is actually worse off in terms of quality of life compared to the western worker, who is only marginally so, if at all.

            The great paradox of the Chinese economic boom is how it has so failed to significantly raise the living standards of the population as a whole. The reason it has failed is because of lack of protection and fair compensation for employees. There is little domestic demand for goods as people have little money and less time to buy them. Western economies were similar for decades, with successive booms doing little to improve the lot of the average man until labour laws came into force, primarily after the second world war.

            Industrial relations are an extremely important part of any economy, and it is vital that a balance be achieved there. China has so far failed to achieve this balance. The consequences for failing to do so may be dire indeed.

      • Re:Poor guy... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @04:14PM (#28775023) Homepage Journal

        "current Asian cultures seems to me to be broken"

        Good going, dude. Please, point us at your published works on philosophy. Seems to me that OUR WAY is as broken as Asia's way, maybe worse.

        Remember the financial meltdown on Wall Street, recently? There should have been hundreds of bodies hitting the sidewalk. Not for their own lost fortunes, but for the billions and billions of dollars lost that WEREN'T THEIR'S to lose.

        Buncha low lifes.....

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MrCrassic (994046)

        It's not that Asian work culture is broken; it's just very, very different from what we in Western cultures are accustomed to. Let's take Japan as a (very overused, but perfect) example. Japanese students begin training for an entrance exam from the 5th grade. The grade on that entrance exam is, for all intents and purposes, the difference between a Japanese student landing a decent job and living a very difficult life.

        On top of that, the Japanese hold very high regards to their workmanship, and many employ

  • Yeah sure (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @02:48PM (#28773825)

    Illegal searches, intimidation, then "suicide"... Uh huh... yeah...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by twostix (1277166)

      If people in the west think that this sort of thing is limited to low level Chinese citizens they'd be wrong as well.

      Witness the latest Rio Tinto troubles - they've "arrested" an Australian Rio Tinto (a major aussie-uk mining company that operates in Aus) employee on "suspicion" of "economic espionage" - holding him without charge for two weeks now. WTF is "economic espionage"? It's upsetting strategic Chinese interests in the course of doing business with said interests is what it is.

      See apparently it's j

  • by Jailbrekr (73837) <jailbrekr@digitaladdiction.net> on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @02:49PM (#28773843) Homepage

    There is now another liver available for transplant.

    • by Sporkinum (655143)

      Nope, Damaged by impact. They'll fire up the execution vans when they need some fresh ones.

  • suppliers... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bombula (670389) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @02:52PM (#28773879)

    "We require our suppliers to treat all workers with dignity and respect"

    Because nothing says dignity and respect like working in a sweatshop and being paid pennies an hour...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tablizer (95088)

      Because nothing says dignity and respect like working in a sweatshop and being paid pennies an hour...

      Welcome to your "free trade" competition. This is the world that business lobbyists want, and they aren't going away, so get used to it. Democracy, my ass.
         

  • by Guppy (12314) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @02:53PM (#28773887)

    When it didn't turn up, he reported the incident to his boss, who ordered his apartment searched. There are reports of physical intimidation by Foxconn security personnel.

    The question is, will this lead to companies being less, or more likely to look upon Foxconn positively when considering an OEM who will keep their new prototype under wraps?

  • by eric02138 (1352435) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @02:54PM (#28773895)
    "The iPhone 4 - it's to die for!"
  • coverups (Score:2, Insightful)

    by martas (1439879)
    right, "suicide".
  • Culture of Secrecy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jpmorgan (517966) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @02:56PM (#28773919) Homepage

    This is the high pressure culture of secrecy taken to its logical conclusion in a country with little worker protection. I highly doubt Apple has any legal responsibility in this, but they do share a portion of the moral culpability along with the management of Foxconn. Did the senior management of Foxconn push the man out a window? No, but they created the corporate culture in which it happened. Likewise, Apple have worked with Foxconn for years now; they created the high pressure culture of secrecy and then turned a blind eye to how Foxconn enforces it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by loteck (533317)
      And just to take this to its logical, and far more important end, the consumers who support this kind of business by voting in droves with their wallets are the singularly most important party turning "a blind eye". This is applicable across all retail. The conditions under which the goods we buy are prepared, be it Nike shoes or a Big Mac or an iPhone, is ultimately the responsibility of the individuals who are purchasing those goods. They hold all the power and therefore virtually all of the responsibilit
      • by SomeJoel (1061138) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @03:18PM (#28774171)
        You may be right, but if every company does it, how can a consumer "choose" not to turn a blind eye. If they don't buy Nike, they buy Adidas, but Adidas is doing the same stuff. If they don't buy a Big Mac, they're buying a Whopper, with the same baggage. So, unless they make the shoes themselves (out of home-farmed cows) and grow their own food they really have no choice. Without some sort of regulation (either governmental or self-imposed by the corporations), there's no way a consumer can realistically "opt-out" of the inhumanities of modern retail.
        • by loteck (533317) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @03:31PM (#28774359) Homepage
          New Balance shoes are made in the US and UK, where labor laws are, at the very least, in existence. That's a good start. Your local farmer's market would be happy to sell you all the fixins' of a Big Mac, and you can get a good idea about how sustainable their operation is by actually talking to the people who farm it.

          Many people think the way you seem to, which is that "opting out" is impossible. This is an uninformed opinion, it would seem, since options abound. You just have to decide to A) look for them and then B) choose them. Moral backflipping also seems to allow people to continue to sleep at night while their conveniences are paid for in blood by their fellow man in other countries.

          • by Bill of Death (777643) * on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @03:54PM (#28774711)
            False. The four pairs of New Balance shoes currently in my house were all made in China.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Anonymous Coward

              There are a few lines of New Balance shoes made in the USA of >70% USA-origin materials (such as the 991/992/993 line), and several more lines made in USA of 70% USA materials. Basically, as New Balance has grown over the last 10 years, they have expanded by importing rather than by building new factories in the USA.

            • by _xeno_ (155264) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @05:38PM (#28776007) Homepage Journal

              Half-false. There are New Balance factories in the US.

              However, when I went looking for a way to find a New Balance shoe that was made in the US, I failed. All the New Balance shoes I've ever seen were stamped "Made In China."

              They seem to have greatly fixed up their website now, though. There's now a "Made In USA" section for men's [nbwebexpress.com] and women's [nbwebexpress.com] shoes. So if you want to buy one of the small fraction of shoes that are made in the US, you can.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by russotto (537200)

            New Balance shoes are made in the US and UK

            The "Made in China" label on my 622s says otherwise.

            Your local farmer's market would be happy to sell you all the fixins' of a Big Mac, and you can get a good idea about how sustainable their operation is by actually talking to the people who farm it.

            I've never heard anything about farm life -- either from people who used to do it or less directly -- which suggests it's any better than sweatshop labor.

        • by tmosley (996283) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @05:11PM (#28775725)
          Free markets provide a way. If there is a market for such a brand, someone will open a farm, raise the cows (cruelty free), get the leather, pay the workers good wages (maybe even make it here in America), etc. If people want that enough to boycott other brands, then the new startup will do quite well, and will be able to lower its prices as it grows, and economies of scale kick in. Eventually, you wind up with a much better quality product at a perhaps slightly higher price.

          That is, unless they have to spend 75% of their income on paying taxes and hiring people to handle regulatory compliance, which is what drove all those companies you mentioned over to China in the first place.

          Yeah...maybe more regulations AREN'T such a great idea...
      • by jpmorgan (517966)

        True to a certain extent. But I would suggest that there is a lot more due diligence required when you're in a billion dollar partnership than if you're a consumer on the street spending a hundred bucks on a gadget.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by loteck (533317)

          The "due diligence" you speak of for the multi-billion dollar company has more to do with an investigation into the finances of a potential partner, and has very little to do with any kind of analysis of a partner's ethical fortitude.

          One might say the consumer's "due diligence" is exactly the opposite and subsequently far, far more important.

    • by GigG (887839)
      I think it goes a little higher than Foxconn. Remember this is the same country that put to death the former head of thier FDA. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/10/world/asia/10iht-china.1.6587520.html [nytimes.com]

      They do tend to take more responsibility for their actions than we do in the West.
      • by Red Flayer (890720) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @03:49PM (#28774637) Journal

        They do tend to take more responsibility for their actions than we do in the West.

        Or, rather, they are more likely to make scapegoats pay the ultimate price.

        Do you think executing the head of their FDA-equivalent solved the underlying problems that led to so many public disgraces due to contaminants? Do you think that person was solely responsible for those problems?

        Executing that man was PR. Nothing less, nothing more. It's the other actions they have, or have not, taken that would truly demonstrate whether they have taken responsibility.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by oldhack (1037484)

          Perhaps PR. Or lip service, let's call it. Here in the US, we don't even bother to pay lip service. Shit hits the fan, we railroad a schmuck from the mail room, and then pretend that all's sorted out. It's like the politicos saying "I take full responsibility" with absolutely no consequence. The term "responsibility" must have changed their meaning some time while I wasn't looking.

          What the hell am I rambling on about? Gotta take my senility pills.

    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @03:51PM (#28774677)

      Also part of the reason it may have been a problem in this particular case is because of Apple's love for secrecy. Foxconn is a major electronics provider and works with all kinds of companies, in addition to selling under their own brand. Now of course like any contractor, they want to keep the people they work with happy. Well for many companies, this wouldn't have been such a big deal. After all frequently companies post pictures of prototype hardware on the web, or send prototype samples to reviewers. Motherboards would be a good example. You usually see a picture of and get a story on a board a month or two before you can buy it. Thus a leak might not be a big deal. They get informed of a leak and they say "Oh well, it's public info anyhow." However Apple has an irrational obsession with secrecy. Nothing can be known by anyone until it is unveiled with big fanfare at some event. They vigorously go after sites that post info on upcoming products and so on.

      Ok well Foxconn knows this, and thus wants to keep Apple happy and maybe responds in a stronger way than normal because of who their customer is. They know that a leak of a prototype, even just the pictures, could be reason for Apple to stop doing business with them since in Apple's world information must be tightly controlled.

  • It give me the creeps knowing how Apple does business. It is obvious that this busniess partner is evil and they continue to work with them.

    • In all fairness I believe both HP and Dell get motherboards and laptops made from Foxconn as well. But certainly Apple's business practices are less than stellar. For every evil business practice we hate Microsoft for, usually Apple follows the same practice and somehow gets a pass.

      • by je ne sais quoi (987177) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @03:34PM (#28774417)
        Yes. The grandparent has his or her work cut out for them because the wikipedia page [wikipedia.org] shows just how hard it is to avoid Foxconn:

        Among other things, Foxconn produces the Mac mini, the iPod and the iPhone for Apple Inc.; Intel-branded motherboards for Intel Corp.; various orders for American computer manufacturers Dell and Hewlett-Packard; the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3 for Sony; the Wii for Nintendo;the Xbox 360 for Microsoft, cell phones for Motorola, and the Amazon Kindle.[2][3] [4]

        Bottom line.. if you like electronic devices, you have to go some way to avoid Foxconn. Apple is known for its secrecy, but we documented evidence that Apple was involved in this intimidation in anyway, you have to assume that Foxconn, and only Foxconn is responsible.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by lennier (44736)

          "Bottom line.. if you like electronic devices, you have to go some way to avoid Foxconn. Apple is known for its secrecy, but we documented evidence that Apple was involved in this intimidation in anyway, you have to assume that Foxconn, and only Foxconn is responsible."

          But Apple must be a contributory party if they keep their Foxconn involvement secret.

          It seems to me that if we really want to eliminate economic exploitation, we have to outlaw commercial secrecy. Outsource if you must, but insist that ALL ou

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by flitty (981864)
      I try not to think of how/where most consumer electronics are built. I fear for what I'd find. I'm sure Apple isn't the only corporation with an overseas manufacturing business that involves some version of morally reprehensible behavior.
    • by hattig (47930) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @03:38PM (#28774479) Journal

      Who are you going to buy instead? Everyone gets their systems built in China, under these conditions. Foxconn is probably one of the better ones.

      It's the cost of cheap, disposable goods in the West.

      Used to be you'd buy a fridge built in your country, a TV, a car, a washing machine, everything, and it would last years and years. But they were expensive, and major purchases. They kept an economy alive, with people being paid reasonable wages. The electronics industry in a rapid speed to be competitive has changed this. We could have a computer that lasted 10 years, but it would really hold things back if you gamed, or did real work. So it drove an industry of rapid upgrades for computers and personal electronics, that don't last long. Western design, eastern construction.

      But these eastern companies don't have the same standards of construction, of employee care, or values, as we do. Additionally the stresses of overwork are immense, they don't have cushy offices, free coffee and 9-5 hours like many of us. Also their upbringing is different. Coupled together, it will add up to a situation where people burn out rapidly, or worse commit suicide if something goes wrong. Many people to replace them of course. Nothing like your own company breaking into your own living space and scaring the bejesus out of you.

      Fucking killing yourself over a front-facing camera, or an OLED screen, or whatever the iPhone 4 will have. Hell, it was probably an iPod Touch 3 for all we know. That shows a massive failure of the value system. Hell, it'll turn out to be the iPhone clone rip-offs that Foxconn probably make on the side won't it? As long as the Chinese elite bosses are okay, that's all that matters. Everything else is a meatgrinder. It's 18th Century with hi-tech, and it won't improve until we stop feeding it.

  • by goffster (1104287) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @03:00PM (#28773949)

    Hah! Like Apple treats its iphone app developers ?

  • This guy in china is a perfect example of such wonderful Chinese engineering.

  • Either he was going to do it or Apple was going to do it, at least he saved himself from the torture...unless Apple did do it and made it look like a suicide.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Not sure how illegal a search of the guy's apartment would be if they own the place.

    I seem to remember an article on here about foxconn "city", everyone ate,worked and lived on the foxconn campus.

  • apple needs to make them to fallow china labor and other laws as well going beyond them and not working people to death.

  • Suicide? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by readin (838620) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @03:49PM (#28774643)
    Or was he helped out the window?
  • by Jackie_Chan_Fan (730745) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @04:08PM (#28774921)

    "We require our suppliers to treat all workers with dignity and respect."

    Yeah right. Thats why Apple employs chinese workers who fear for their lives. Chinese labor is employed because its virtually slave labor. Its cheap, easily controlled, and cut throat business practices allow them to dispose of workers at will.

    Either this guy was a spy, or he made an honest mistake. Whatever the case may be, its said that he took his life.

    I still find it sick that Apple can say they require their suppliers to treat workers with dignity and respect in one breathe, but in practice they really do not care because look at who they employ!

  • Free trade? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @04:09PM (#28774951)

    Why isn't the difference in workers' rights and environmental abuse priced into free trade agreements?

    I have no problem with work going to China, as long as the employers there also have to pay for health care, disability, U.S. minimum wages, and safe workplace enforcement; cannot dump their waste into rivers, etc.

    Without those restrictions, U.S. workers cannot hope to compete based on price.

    So work done in those countries, and items manufactured in those countries, should probably incur tariffs big enough to compensate for all those other disparities.

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