A Suicide & An I-Phone in China
New Delhi-A 25 year old worker in Shenzhen, China named Sun Danyong has committed suicide by jumping from a 12 story building last week after being accused of stealing an i-phone.
The Taiwanese company he worked for, Foxconn, has faced accusitions in the past of mistreating its employees and Danyong’s suicide comes after he was allegedly beaten, had his home searched, and was locked in a room.
Apple is investigating the case, but this is an example of foreign companies needing to have greater oversight over the firms they contract with that operate inside China. The great attraction of doing business in China is the cheap costs of labor for mass produced products. Chinese worker are not treated well. When I was in Dongguan, the factory city near to Shenzhen where products for many Western companies are made, I saw first hand the bare conditions that many of the workers, who are often from rural areas of China, live in. Many of the factories were closing down due to the global economic crisis and the workers, many of whom were young and trying to spend some years making money along China’s wealthy east coast before returning to their villages, were massing outside the few still operating factories trying to get hired.
Whether Danyong stole an i-phone or not isn’t the issue. US and European companies have long ignored the conditions and operating methods of their contractors abroad. In this era of greater transparency and communication, Danyong’s friends told a Chinese newspaper about his alleged abuse by the company, something that would not have been allowed inside China a decade ago, foreign companies need to be more aware of who they are dealing with. Of course few people are going to refrain from buying this next generation of i-phone’s because of Danyong’s death, but the people who read the story will think about it. That is something that Apple will have on its mind. China is a quickly developing country. Pressure from the companies it does business with can definitely have an impact as the country attempts to improve their human rights. Something that hopefully will happen quickly as China’s spread of influence across Asia and Africa is only growing.