The Suicide of Sun Danyong

(The Wall Street Journal)  Reports of Suicide in China Linked to Missing iPhone     By Yukari Iwatani Kane    July 21, 2009.

News media in China are reporting that a 25-year-old employee of Foxconn, which manufactures products for Apple there, committed suicide last week after being interrogated about a missing prototype for a new iPhone.

According to publications that include Shanghai Daily, Sun Danyong, a recent engineering graduate, jumped out of the window of his apartment last Thursday. The reports said Sun, who had been tasked with sending iPhone prototypes to Apple, had been under suspicion for stealing after one of the handsets went missing. Some publications reported that, in the days prior to his suicide, Sun had been detained and beaten by a senior official in the security department of the Taiwan-based electronics manufacturing giant.

Foxconn could not be reached for comment. But some reports quoted a statement from Foxconn・s general manager Li Jinming, who apologized for what happened and attributed the incident to a lack of management. He added that the official who had questioned Sun has been suspended and is under investigation by the police.

A spokesman for Apple said, :We are saddened by the tragic loss of this young employee and we are awaiting results of the investigations into his death. We require that our suppliers treat all workers with dignity and respect.; Some English-language blogs, including Gizmodo and Apple Insider, were critical of Foxconn・s handling of the situation, pointing out that the manufacturer has run into accusations before of harsh working conditions. Others, such as VentureBeat, pointed to the pressure that Foxconn and other contract manufacturers face to adhere to Apple・s secrecy over its products.

Apple is known for requiring suppliers to sign contracts that impose hefty financial penalties if they are found to have leaked sensitive information. One Western expat in China says that the accusation of stealing alone would have been severely damaging for the employee, who was likely on an elite track working in a career job for one of Asia・s premier firms.

(The Wall Street Journal)  Employee's Suicide Puts Hon Hai, Apple in Spotlight    By Ting-I Tsai.  July 23, 2009.

Police in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen are investigating the suicide of an employee of Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., which assembles the popular iPhone for Apple Inc., in an episode that has put the Taiwanese company under a spotlight.

Hon Hai, which is known by the trade name Foxconn and makes a slew of products for the world's biggest electronics companies, said it is cooperating with the investigation and expressed regret over the suicide of Sun Danyong, a 25-year-old recent engineering graduate who worked as an administrative staffer at a company plant in Shenzhen.

Hon Hai also said it suspended a security official who had questioned Mr. Sun before his death. The security official couldn't be reached for comment. Local authorities said Mr. Sun jumped from the 12th floor of his apartment building in Shenzhen last Thursday.

"The group and I are saddened by the tragic loss of this young employee," said James Lee, chief commerce officer for Hon Hai's China operation. "My apologies to Sun Danyong's family."

Neither Hon Hai nor police disclosed further details surrounding Mr. Sun's death or his role at the company. But in an acknowledgment of local media reports that Mr. Sun may have been mistreated while under questioning, Mr. Lee said, "We never authorized anyone to conduct any moves beyond the law."

A spokesman for Apple said, "We are saddened by the tragic loss of this young employee and we are awaiting results of the investigations into his death. We require that our suppliers treat all workers with dignity and respect."

According to local media reports, which couldn't be independently confirmed, Mr. Sun was questioned about the disappearance of a prototype of Apple's next-generation iPhone. The reports also said he had been beaten.

The attention underscores the secrecy and speculation that surrounds Apple's development of its newest products, particularly the bestselling iPhone and its iPod digital music player. The company requires its contractors to keep future product plans closely guarded, and their work is often the subject of scrutiny by journalists and industry watchers.

Hon Hai in particular has been under a spotlight for its work with Apple. In August 2006, Hon Hai sued two Chinese journalists in Shenzhen for reporting workers assembling iPods in its Shenzhen factory were forced to work overtime. It denied the accusation, but withdrew the case weeks later as public pressure against it mounted.

Mr. Sun's death has sparked a public backlash in China, where Hon Hai's hierarchical management style has been the subject of criticism. In its statement Wednesday, Hon Hai said Mr. Sun's death was a sign of management problems and vowed to do a better job to help its employees with psychological pressures. "Sun's suicide, no matter what, to a certain extent reflects the inadequacy of our internal management," the statement said.

(People's Daily)  Suicide of Foxconn employee puts China's white-collar workers under spotlight   July 24, 2009.

The suicide of Sun Danyong, an employee of Foxconn Technology Group, after a sample Apple iPhone had gone missing, has been hotly discussed by the international media for days, according to a report by the Global Times on July 24.

At a time when China's economy is rapidly developing, this tragedy reveals the fragility underlying the glorious appearance of China's white-collar workers.

Sun's death raised doubts from the Western media about Apple Incorporated's culture. said ironically that the design of Apple's next-generation mobile phone is so "priceless" that it has claimed the life of a young Chinese engineer held responsible for misplacing a prototype. Reuters published an article on July 23, saying that the Foxconn employee's suicide "puts a spotlight on the secretive Apple culture."

A Reuters' report said that the incident "sparked a Web firestorm in China." Many posts were made by Western readers in response to the article. A US netizen said that companies which transfer production abroad only care about money, not the people who work for them.

Foxconn has also faced severe criticism. The US based said, "Allegations of trouble with Foxconn workers in China have bitten Apple before. The US company and its relationship with Foxconn was brought to light three years ago when a British newspaper wrote about allegedly poor pay and long hours for iPod assembly line workers."

(  Sun Danyong's final chat session with friends Jiang Xiaocui and Gao Ge.  The chat session began at 23:53 on July 15 and ended at 1:26:27 on July 16. 

Sun: I have never in my life been insulted twice as far as I can remember.

Jiang: What does that mean?

Gao: Brother Yong, what is up?  What?

Jiang: Yes, we are all very worried.

Gao: Brother Yong?

Sun: Do you remember that a fellow student gave me 100 RMB in the second year of school?  I did not know whether the money was fake or real.  When I got back to the dormitory, my friends borrowed it.  The fellow student then asked for the money back.  We spent a whole morning on the issue of whether the money was fake or real.

Gao: Is it a virus?

Jiang: I don't know.

Gao: It is not a virus.  Brother Yong, are you okay?

Sun: In the afternoon, he brought along a underworld person.  I gave him back the several tens of dollars that I owed.

Jiang: And then?

Sun: Gao Ge, it is alright.  I just want to say what I feel in my heart.

Gao: What about this time?

Sun: That evening, I was bullied by him and another guy in the dormitory.  There were lots of people in the dormitory.  Since the lights were about to be go out, everybody lent me some money to get rid of those people.

Gao: That is too unseemly.

Jiang: And then?

Sun: I was frightened out of my wits by a small knife.  When they left, I was punished to kneel.

Gao: What kind of people are they?  This is going too far.

Gao: It is a dormitory, after all.

Gao: They are not good people.

Sun: Later on, I saw that person again on campus.  I found out that he was fucking one year ahead of me in university.  I don't know what those people outside the dormitory do.

Sun: On the first day since I joined the company, I have never taken anything.

Sun: But I am really bad in my work.  It is a matter of human ability.

Gao: And then?

Gao: As long as you work seriously.

Sun: Ever since 88EVT began, all the equipment went through my hands.  Nothing every went wrong, possibly because Song Mei kept leading me on the work.

Sun: I have never taken anything.  I did not take the phone that was missing this time.

Sun: I am really not good with my work.  There were so many problems.

Gao: But they are two different problems.

Gao: One is about ability and the other is about character.

Gao: Who framed you up?

Gao: Brother Yong, you calm down first and review the entire incident.

Gao: You see what went wrong.

Sun: I have thought about it carefully.  There are only two possible ways for the phone to go missing.  Someone took it unintentionally before I packed it.  Or someone deliberately took it that night or the next day.

Gao: I know that you are not that kind of person.  But you can't be sure that other people will do you harm and you can't always afford to let your guard down.

Gao: How serious are the consequences?

Jiang: Is there any way to go back and find it?  Foxconn must have monitoring processes.

Sun: The box was sealed with security tape and the place where I put it also has security tapes.  Someone had moved the big box.

Gao: How does it affect you?

Sun: I waited three days after it went missing before telling the supervisor, because I kept trying to find it.  I thought that the phone must be still on the production line.  I wanted to deal with the matter myself.  But I was really unable to find it.  I knew that if the phone goes outside, it will have severe consequences for the company.  So I called Jeff and I told him.

Gao: I don't understand anything about what you say about that thing.  First, tell me how much responsibility do you bear?

Sun: Dear Supervisor Jeff, I was late to work on my second day.  On Monday night, my girlfriend arrived at the Longgang bus station (Shenzhen) at 2am.  There were no more buses, so I could not get back.  I stayed over there for the night.  I hurried back the next morning.  Although I have no money, I am not interested in the iPhone.  These are my honest words.  There is whole bunch of them in room C034F.  In my eyes, they are just objects.  They give me a headache.  I don't know how to dealt with them.

Gao: Brother Yong, are they suspecting now that you did something wrong?

Sun: The security people made me give a statement today.  I spoke honestly from my heart.  Everything was true with no lies.  Some aspects are going to arouse suspicion.  I can understand you, because I would be the same if it were up to me.

Sun: But I cannot accept the insult against my character by the security people.

Gao: What happened?

Sun: Even down at the police station, there are laws against the application of force.  Besides, this is just a corporation.

Sun: I am merely a suspect.  Dear Security Department director Gu Qinming, on what grounds and qualification do you have to detain me and use force on me?

Gao: They hit you!

Gao: Brother Yong, I don't think that you can stay there.

Gao: Did they leave any evidence behind that shows that they hit you?

Gao: Brother Yong?

Gao: Everybody will run into mishaps and setbacks, and be misunderstood or bullied.  Who can live in this world with smooth sailing all their lives?

Sun: Gao Ge, you are up so late.  How come you are not in bed yet?

Gao: Please do not give up.  Please do not over-react.

Sun: I can accept that I am responsible for losing the phone.  I am deeply sorry.  But I did not fucking take it.

Gao: I am still in France.

Gao: Brother Yong, the innocent know that they are innocent.  Besides some things are unclear.

Gao: But they shall pass.

Sun: Foxconn is really big and strong.  But it is actually a good place.  But that pack of dogs is really not human.

Gao: What is Foxconn?

Sun: The name of my company.

Gao: What does it do?

Gao: Is there a Chinese name?

Sun: Really, in my memory, I have only been insulted twice this way.

Gao: Be strong.

Gao: Because of this, you should live well and show those dogs later.

Sun: But this time, the serious consequences are only about to come.  They can beat again at will and they can make up some excuse at will and dump me with the public security bureau?  I really don't know.

Gao: Brother Yong, from this moment on, you must pay attention and preserve any evidence again.  But you must relent at the right time.

Sun: That room in which they keep people does not have a camera.  That is so fucking awesome.  I have been to C021.5F so many times.  This was the first time that I found out that Gu Qinming has this paradise.  I don't know how many people have been bullied there before.

Gao: A big man knows how to bend as well as extend.

Gao: Fuck.

Gao: They are too fucking nasty.

Sun: Dear Jeff, please do not tell other people that I have a 68.  When you gave me that iPhone that day, I immediately gave it to Baojuan.  Not necessary for any reason, but because I thought that Baojuan and Song Mei both arrived before me but they have never received anything.  I felt sorry.  It was clearly tough for a girl to do shipping.  Besides she is the only [mistype] in the department.  When I was 18/19 years old, I would also start thinking about things, even though she is just a small child before us.

Sun: There are so many regrets left.  I really don't want to give up.

Gao: Brother Yong, what is up with you?

Gao: You are doing fine.

Sun: Do you remember that remember that you paid 50 RMB on my behalf.  I had also advanced 100 RMB to Baojuan.  So this means that you gave Baojuan the money directly.  I am really embarrassed.

Gao: Brother Yong?

Gao: What do you mean?

Gao: Why are you saying this?

Sun: I have been in that department for almost one year.  Really, I am really grateful to the various colleagues in the department.  It has been really delightful to be with you, especially my dear supervisor Jeff.  I am really grateful to you.  All the problems that I caused previously in my work were dealt by you with the clients, so that things were managed.

Gao: Brother Yong, I get more and more confused by what you are saying.  Oh, oh.

Gao: You talk about yourself.

Sun: I am truly grateful to you.  But let me say something frank.  If I have to choose between you and Rouger as manager, I would choose Rouger.  You are a good person.  Whenever there are problems, you help me to deal with them.  But I have to be frank that I feel oppressed in front of you because I have nothing to say.  I still like Rouger.  I would rather be scolded.  Even though Rouger does not have a good personality, he has his good points.  I have come into contact with him several times.  I felt very natural when I spoke to him.  I can find something to say.  Ho, ho, that is really interesting.

Sun: I hope that someone can fix Foxconn up so that it does not fucking resemble a triad organization.  They can search people's home at will.  They can detain people at will.  They can beat people.

Sun: It is one thing to search my home today.  But they even searched the home of the girl in the RDDQE department.  When the police search someone's home, they need to have a search warrant.  They will let people make their statements no matter how exaggerated/ignorant/incredible.  Very few people not in the department will believe that I did not take the phone.

Sun: To the various colleagues in the department, let me say one last time: I did not take that N90 machine.

Sun: Gao Ke, are you still there?

Gao: I am.

Gao: Brother Yong.

Gao: I have been listening all along.

Sun: We have seen each other for a long time.  I miss you.

Gao: Me too.

Gao: Let us all get together later.

Gao: What do you think?

Sun: I hope so.

Gao: What do you mean by hope?

Gao: We will definitely meet.

Gao: I am going to Shenzhen to see you.

Sun: I am really speechless at being bullied.  Dear director Gu Qinming, I hope that you get your just rewards soon.  Although you can beat me and although you can produce another machine soon, it is because Foxconn is powerful, not you.

Sun: Yes, there is something else.  I am just paying off the interest portion on the student loan.  I hope that it won't affect lending to the other younger students.  I am really sorry about this affair.

Sun: I am going, Gao Ge.  Rest well.  When you know that you won't have to be bullied and used as a scapegoat tomorrow, you will feel a lot better inside.

(Southern Metropolis Daily)  July 21, 2009.

Message from Sun Yandong at 1:57:09 on July 16: How have you been recently.  It was fucking depressing today at the company.  Something like this can even happen in a Top 500 company.  Not only was I beaten, but those bastards inspected my mobile phone, searched my home and detained me.

Message from Sun Yandong to his girlfriend at just after 3pm on July 15: "Dear, I am sorry.  Go home tomorrow.  I am in trouble.  Please don't tell my family.  Do not contact me.  I beg you to promise me!  I am really sorry about you ..."  When she received this message, it was 1:48 on July 16.  She called him but there was no answer.  At 4pm or so, the militia police came to find her.

(Tianya Forum)

Here are the SMS records between Sun Yandong and his girlfriend.

She: Husband, you should come home early for dinner (15:10 July 15)

He: It's alright.  I have to look for a job anyway (17:32 July 15)

She: That's right.  I don't think that this job is that great.  If we go back, we can find work.

She: When are they going to let you come back tonight?

He: I'm at the office.  I'll be back shortly.

She: When will you be back?

He: I don't know.  The supervisor is still investigating.  I also want to find out where the problem was.

She;  Good.  No need to hurry.  It is better to investigate thoroughly.  I will wait for you to have dinner.

She: They are not letting you go?

He: Don't contact me.

She: Are you coming back tonight?

He: Don't know.  Don't ask.

She: Wooooo ... I am worried about you!  I will wait for you to come back.  You must be strong.

He: Dear, I am sorry.  Go back home tomorrow.  I am in trouble.  Please do not tell my family at any cost.  Please do not contact me.  This is the first time that I have ever begged you for anything.  Please promise me!  I am really sorry about you!  (01:48 on July 16)

(Southern Metropolis Daily)  July 21, 2009.

Yesterday afternoon, the reporter viewed the surveillance tapes at the scene.

At 1:44, Sun Yandong entered the Xiaoli Garden district.  He walked over to the road into the A2 building where he lived, took a look and then headed into the elevator of the A3 building.  The surveillance camera inside the elevator showed that he pressed the 12th floor button.  Upon arriving on the 12th floor, he exited and took a left turn.  Just as the elevator door closed, the surveillance camera recorded him standing on this toes looking down from the window in the hallway.  The surveillance camera on the 12th floor was situated at the far end of the hallway, but it is still possible to tell that he was seated motionless on the window sill.  This continued for more than one hour.  At 3:33:52 on July 16, the surveillance camera on the ground showed Sun committing suicide by leaping down.

(Southern Metropolis Daily)  July 22, 2009

Surveillance tape of the first interrogation (July 15)

12:36:01 Sun Danyong enters the Environment Security Department office (which is a partitioned office consisting of cubicles).  Sun walked in first followed by a department worker.

12:36:14: Sun and the worker sat down facing each other and a desk between them.  The interrogation began.  The statement material was placed on the desk.  There was no body contact.  The mood was relaxed and the scene was calm.

13:42:43: A female worker came in and asked the investigator to come out.  Several minutes later, the investigator returned and continued with the note-taking.

13:52:32: The two leave together.  There was nothing unusual.

Surveillance tape of the second interrogation (July 15)

21:06:16: Sun Danyong entered the cubicle of the Environment Security Department director.  There are two to three workers around them.  A janitor was cleaning nearby.  There did not seem to be any noise that would attract the attention of these people.

21:23:01: The Environment Security Department director Gu Qinming got up and tugged Sun Danyong's right shoulder.  Then he sat down again.  Sun began talking to another colleague outside the office.  No further physical contact could be seen again.

21:38:23: Sun Danyong's supervisor Jeff arrived at the office and went immediately to the director's cubicle and listened in over the wall.  Meanwhile, other workers continued to move around in the office.

22:41:43, Sun Danyong came out of the cubicle.  He showed nothing unusual on his face.  He spoke to his colleagues on the side.  According to Jeff, he chatted with Sun and then they both went back to the office.

Chinese-language television news reports




(The New Yorker)  Death at an Apple manufacturer in China.  By Evan Osnos.  July 24, 2009.

Interesting details are emerging in the Chinese press about the case of Sun Danyong, the twenty-five-year-old employee of Foxconn who committed suicide in Shenzhen last week after being interrogated about a missing prototype for a new iPhone.

The case has thrown an uncomfortable spotlight on past accusations of workplace abuse at Foxconn, which manufactures products for Apple, and the culture of secrecy imposed on Apple・s manufacturers abroad. (A spokesman for Apple has said it is :saddened by the tragic loss of this young employee and we are awaiting results of the investigations into his death.;) The Chinese press initially reported that in the days before he leapt from his apartment window Sun had been detained and beaten by a senior official in the security department of the Taiwan-based company. Some new twists:

Tomorrow, I・ll have more, on the culture inside Foxconn and Sun・s final days.

(The New Yorker)  More on the iPhone suicide.  By Evan Osnos.  July 24, 2009.

After being interrogated by his factory managers for losing an iPhone prototype, Sun Danyong jumped from the twelfth floor of his dormitory at 3:33 A.M., on July 16th. He left behind a poignant electronic trail that provides one of the most revealing views that I can remember into life in the factories of southern China: who works where, why, and in what conditions. Much of this remains unconfirmed, but the dramatic story contained in text messages, instant messages, and bulletin-board posts would never have been recorded ten years ago.

Sun was an archetypal member of the factory world of Shenzhen. The Chinese press has a tendency to mythologize figures who have attracted public support, but his basic bio seems clear: He was twenty-five years old and noticeably quiet. He grew up in an isolated mountain village called Long Tan, in the southwestern province of Yunnan. The family was poor enough that Sun would erase the old pencil notes from his school notebooks and reuse them multiple times. He was smart and went on to graduate, last year, from Harbin Institute of Technology, one of China・s best schools, with a bachelor degree in business administration. When he graduated and started working in Foxconn last year, he told his parents, :From now on you don・t have to work so hard, you should enjoy a little,; according to a profile in Southern Daily.

In his final hours, Sun told several people about the missing phone and the security department・s interrogations. Chinese newspapers have published what they describe as cell-phone text messages that Sun・s girlfriend says she received in the final hours before his death. The last message is said to have arrived at 1:48 A.M., less than two hours before he died: :My dear, I・m sorry, go back home tomorrow, something has happened to me, please don・t tell my family, don・t contact me, this is the first time that I have ever begged you, please agree to that! I am so sorry!;

Another record has emerged of what is described as a final online chat with old college friends, on the Chinese Web site QQ. In a troubled, rambling exchange that has been confirmed as authentic by one participant, Sun insists he never stole and hypothesizes that someone had swiped the prototype without his noticing, or had pulled it out of the box after he had sent it. Describing the role of a security chiefXwho has denied using forceXSun wrote, :Even at a police station, the law says force must never be used, much less in a corporate office. I was just a suspect, my dear head of security, so what reason and right do you have to confine me and use force?;

His final line of the conversation: :Right now I am paying the interest on my student loan. I hope this will not affect the chances of younger people applying for loans. I am sorry for this. Bye, Gao Ge [a college friend], rest well. Thinking that I won・t be bullied tomorrow, won・t have to be the scapegoat, I feel much better.;

Chinese police are investigating the case, including whether or not Sun was brutalized. But the Chinese media and bloggers have surged to the case as a sign of workplace pressure gone awry. They have posted what they say is a Foxconn confidentiality and non-compete agreement, which promises fines for workers who break it. More fundamentally, they have enshrined the story of Sun Danyong as a bitter symbol of China・s industrial age.

(New York Times)  IPhone Maker in China Is Under Fire After a Suicide   By David Barboza.  July 27, 2009.

When a closely guarded prototype of a new Apple iPhone went missing at a huge factory here two weeks ago, an internal investigation focused on a shy, 25-year-old employee named Sun Danyong.

Mr. Sun, a college graduate working in the logistics department, denied stealing the iPhone. But he later complained to friends that he had been beaten and humiliated by the factory・s security team. On the night he was questioned, he sent an anguished text message to his girlfriend.

:Dear, I・m sorry. Go back home tomorrow,; he wrote, according to a message she later posted online. :I ran into some problems. Don・t tell my family. Don・t contact me. I・m begging you for the first time. Please do it! I・m sorry.; Soon after, in the early-morning hours of July 16, Mr. Sun apparently jumped to his death from the 12th floor of an apartment building in what his employer, Foxconn Technology, says was a suicide.

Apple and Foxconn, one of the world・s biggest manufacturers of consumer electronics and a major Apple supplier, issued statements last week expressing sorrow for the death. Foxconn said it suspended one security officer, pending a police investigation, and that the company was now considering counseling services for its employees.

The Apple statement said: :We are saddened by the tragic loss of this young employee, and we are awaiting results of the investigations into his death. We require that our suppliers treat all workers with dignity and respect.; The company would not comment further.

The local police bureau declined to answer questions about the case. But reports of the apparent suicide have set off a firestorm of criticism of Foxconn・s treatment of Mr. Sun, labor conditions at its factories and the pressures Apple places on suppliers to abide by the culture of secrecy that surrounds its development of new products.

The case also underscores the challenges that global companies face in trying to safeguard their designs and intellectual property in the hotly contested smartphone market, particularly here in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, an electronics manufacturing center known for piracy and counterfeiting.

Apple・s popular iPhone is already widely imitated and counterfeited in China. And there are regular rumors on Chinese Web sites about new Apple prototypes leaking out of Chinese factories.

:When you outsource to a third party, you lose some control,; says Dane Chamorro, general manager in China at Control Risks, a global consulting firm. :And if you・re outsourcing to China, it・s going to be even more challenging. There・s going to be a bounty on every design.; Labor rights groups say the worker・s death should compel Apple to improve conditions at its supplier factories in China and prevent worker abuse.

Foxconn, part of Taiwan・s Hon Hai group, has also been sharply criticized because of suspicions about unduly harsh treatment of the worker.

Foxconn, which produces electronics for some of the world・s best-known brands, like Sony and Hewlett-Packard, operates a cluster of sprawling factories in southern China. One of its Shenzhen campuses has nearly 300,000 workers.

But some labor rights activists say the company treats employees harshly, routinely violating labor laws.

In an e-mail message on Thursday, China Labor Watch, which monitors Chinese factories and is based in New York, blamed Mr. Sun・s death on :Foxconn・s inhumane and militant management system, which lacks fundamental respect for human rights.; The group said it published an in-depth study of Foxconn last year, detailing its abuses.

James Lee, general manager of China operations at Foxconn, defended the company・s labor practices in a lengthy interview on Friday, and also said the company would strive to improve management of its facilities.

:It・s very difficult for the company to defend itself against such charges,; Mr. Lee said of complaints from labor rights groups. :You・re welcome to look at how employees are treated here.; A reporter toured two of the company・s campuses in Shenzhen on Friday, including the one where Mr. Sun worked. The campuses were so large they contained retail stores, banks, post offices and high-rise dormitories with outdoor swimming pools.

The reporter was not allowed to see manufacturing lines because the company said it had to protect trade secrets.

Outside the gates of one campus, most workers interviewed independently of the company said they were well treated. One of about 15 workers questioned admitted to being forced to work overtime above the legal limit.

In his interview, Mr. Lee, the Foxconn manager, said the company also had a duty to protect the intellectual property of its customers, and that it was honestly seeking answers to what happened to the product.

Foxconn said it still does not know what happened to the missing iPhone. The company said Mr. Sun was given 16 prototypes on July 9 or 10 to deliver to research and development, and failed to report one missing until three days later.

The company says his explanation for the missing phone did not seem credible and that he had had problems before.

:Several times he had some products missing, then he got them back,; Mr. Lee said. :We don・t know who took the product, but it was at his stop.; In an interview with Southern Metropolis Daily newspaper last week, the security officer suspended by Foxconn denied beating Mr. Sun, saying only that he :became a little angry; and grabbed Mr. Sun・s right shoulder.

Even so, the company paid compensation to Mr. Sun・s family. It declined to say how much, but Mr. Sun・s brother cited a figure of 300,000 renminbi, or more than $44,000, and said Mr. Sun・s girlfriend was also given an Apple laptop computer.

Mr. Sun・s brother doubts he stole the prototype.

:He was honest and modest. He would never steal anything,; said Sun Danxiong, 28, his brother.

Mr. Sun grew up in a small, impoverished village in southwest Yunnan province and ranked first in his high school, his family says. He graduated from the Harbin Institute of Technology, one of the nation・s top schools, before joining Foxconn about a year ago.

On Thursday, with his son Danxiong standing nearby, holding a box with Sun Danyong・s ashes, the father, Sun Yangdong, said Foxconn had treated the family well. But he said he was still in shock that his son could leap from a building because he was so gentle and tender.

Soon after, a security guard, who was joined by two men wearing Foxconn shirts, threatened to :beat up; a journalist・s translator if she persisted in asking the family questions. Foxconn officials later said the guard was not on their staff and might have been with the police bureau.

Back in Yunnan, Mr. Sun said that on the night of his brother・s death, he had e-mailed friends, angry about Foxconn・s questioning of him. In one message, Mr. Sun said he was locked up and beaten. :A Fortune 500 company even has these things,; he wrote.

On Sunday, Danxiong said some of his brother・s friends told him Mr. Sun killed himself out of anger at Foxconn. His brother said: :They told me he was extremely angry at Foxconn; they humiliated him and he wanted to resist the company, and planned to do something big.;

(Los Angeles Times)  Product secrecy and a worker's death   By David Pierson and Alex Pham.  July 29, 2009.

Reporting from Los Angeles and Beijing -- Sun Danyong was the mild-mannered son of a potato-farming family in an impoverished corner of south-central China.

When he was offered a job at a sprawling electronics factory in the boomtown of Shenzhen last year, he accepted, figuring the experience would spur him to better opportunities one day back in his home province of Yunnan.

He never got the chance. On July 16, 25-year-old Sun leaped to his death from the 12th floor of his apartment building after becoming embroiled in a factory probe over a missing prototype of a new Apple iPhone.

Now Sun is quickly becoming a symbol of the psychic toll inflicted on young workers in many of China's pressure-filled factories. His death has also put scrutiny on Apple and its obsession with control over its products.

A police investigation has been launched to determine the possible culpability of a now-suspended factory supervisor, who was accused of abusing Sun during an interrogation.

Apple has not been accused of any wrongdoing, but the company's zealous protection of its product designs may have put added pressure on factory managers to find the missing prototype, according to at least one analyst.

The Cupertino, Calif., company in 2004 filed a lawsuit against an Apple enthusiast website, alleging that it infringed on the company's trade secrets by soliciting insider information; the suit was settled in Apple's favor. The company also won the right to subpoena writers associated with two other fan sites in 2005 in an effort to identify the Apple employee who had divulged details about an upcoming product.

A missing prototype would be considered a very serious breach, one that could mean repercussions for any company considered responsible, said Charles Golvin, an analyst with Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass. And if one factory loses an Apple contract, another stands ready to step in.

"These companies are competing heavily for Apple's business," Golvin said.

What role, if any, that played in the factory's actions toward Sun is not yet known, but Apple pointed out that it has a program to monitor the working conditions of its suppliers that includes provisions against "mental coercion" and "inhumane treatment."

"We are saddened by the tragic loss of this young employee, and we're awaiting results of the investigations into his death," Apple spokesman Steve Dowling said. "We require that our suppliers treat all workers with dignity and respect."

Apple said it would wait for the results of a Chinese investigation into the suicide before taking any action.

The death has also resurrected questions about Sun's workplace, Foxconn Technology Group, a giant Taiwanese-owned company that has made iPods and Dell computers and has been accused in the past of sweatshop conditions.

"Someone needs to take responsibility for his death," Sun's brother, Sun Daxiong, said in a phone interview. "He was pushed too hard by his job. He was humiliated and forced into this situation. This tragedy could have been avoided."

The details surrounding Sun Danyong's death remain murky. Local media published purported online chats between him and friends hours before he died.

The narrative now coalescing and gaining traction across Chinese Internet message boards goes like this: Sun was assigned to mail 16 of the new-generation iPhones to Apple on July 10. When one was discovered missing days later, internal security blamed Sun. He was allegedly detained, interrogated and beaten at the factory while his apartment was illegally searched. Soon after, he jumped to his death.

"Not only was I beaten, but those bastards inspected my mobile phone, searched my home and detained me," read one of Sun's text messages an hour and a half before his suicide, according to the Southern Metropolis Daily.

Officials at Foxconn declined to be interviewed but released a statement apologizing to the family and saying no employee was authorized to break the law in the internal investigation.

The company said it was cooperating with police and had suspended without pay a security supervisor in charge of questioning Sun.

Taking note of the Internet message traffic over the tragedy, the company added: "We welcome the public opinion to help Foxconn to examine the shortcomings of management."

Workers advocates say the responses are not good enough. They believe Apple needs to reexamine its relationship with Foxconn, which also goes by the name Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. and is owned by Taiwanese billionaire Terry Gou.

China Labor Watch called Foxconn's pledge to review its management an empty promise. The New York workers rights group released a report last year alleging forced overtime, unpaid wages and poor dormitory conditions.

The group said employees toiled in a "dehumanizing" environment where they underwent "brainwashing" to adhere to rules. The group said there was one advantage to working in the Apple division: Workers are given stools.

It's unclear how Apple will react to the latest controversy. When news broke several years ago that Foxconn was underpaying workers to make iPods, Apple responded by bolstering its audits and pushing harder for international standards for working conditions, said Stephen Frost of Corporate Social Responsibility in Asia. He noted that Foxconn's total revenue last year, $59.35 billion, was greater than Apple's $32.4 billion (though its profit margin was much slimmer).

A company such as Foxconn, which has plants across the globe, does not need to depend on Apple's business, Frost said. "That's a big issue because the perception is clients can boss around manufacturers and force certain things into the supply chain," he said. "It's not clear to me that Apple can just walk in there and sort this out."

Though hardly perfect, Frost said, Foxconn does not rank among the worst offenders in China when it comes to labor practices. He said its task is complicated by having so many clients in competition with one another -- making security between the factory lines crucial, especially for high-profile products such as iPhones that rely on surprise for marketing.

Labor activists said that emphasis on security places immense pressure on factory workers. "Foxconn doesn't have a very good reputation in terms of management," said Geoffrey Crothall, a spokesman for the Hong Kong-based China Labor Bulletin. "It's like a fortress: very tightly run. It has a security department that plays a major role in management."

He Jiankang works in the research and development department of Foxconn in Shenzhen. He said it was difficult adjusting to the job. He's not paid overtime if he doesn't meet his assigned goals for the day in time; he's not allowed access to the Internet at work and he's banned from bringing in electronic equipment such as an MP3 player. But he said what worried him the most was the threat of being scrutinized by the factory's security officials.

"If those guards do come to you, for sure you'll feel a lot of pressure," said He, 27. "For a young guy like me, the pressure is absolutely overwhelming."

The security supervisor suspended and under police investigation in Sun's death is now the target of online vigilantes.

At, a website devoted to Foxconn employees, Web users gathered personal information on the supervisor, Gu Qinming. They posted his cellphone number, office address, badge number, date of birth and hometown. "Lets find a day off and beat him with bricks," one post says.

Gu, whose phone numbers rang unanswered, told the Southern Metropolis Daily that Sun was uncooperative during his interview and that he could not understand why he was being blamed for the man's suicide. "Sun Danyong was very shy," Gu told the paper. "He talked slow. I had to push him to get an answer. But he didn't have an explanation" for the missing phone. "On the Internet, I look like a murderer," he said. "Everyone thinks I'm the one who pushed him to commit suicide. Sometimes I ask myself, 'What did I do to him?' "

Sun's older brother is still searching for answers, but for now, he said he must comfort his parents, who have spent recent days crying uncontrollably. "Three hours before he died, I was chatting normally with him on the Internet," said Sun Daxiong, 28. "I couldn't know what was going on in his head."

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