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Monday,May 10,2021
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String of Deaths Haunts iPad-maker in Shenzhen

Updated Beijing Time

Source: Shanghai Daily

Two employees of Foxconn Technology Group walk on an overpass near the company complex in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, yesterday. Ten Foxconn employees have jumped off buildings this year in Shenzhen, as did one in Langfang, Hebei Province. Two survived.

A worker at Foxconn Technology Group's Shenzhen works, where iPhones and iPads are made, jumped to his death yesterday from a building -- the eighth suicide this year at the world's largest contract maker of electronics in the southern Chinese boomtown.

A total of 10 Foxconn workers have jumped off buildings in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, this year, and two survived.

Nan Gang, 21, died at 4:50am yesterday after falling from the top of a four-story building. Initial investigations ruled out foul play.

The city's police and labor security authorities said the death was suicide.

The tragedy is expected to generate more pressure on the company, which is fielding accusations that long work hours with low pay and harsh management methods contributed to the suicides.

Foxconn, owned by Taiwan-based Hon Hai Precision Industry Co, defended itself, saying it had already done everything it could think of to prevent more tragedies.

The company set up a 24-hour suicide prevention hotline in the factory along with a cash reward of up to 500 yuan for information that could help stop a suicide, the Southern Metropolis Daily said.

The hotline is hosted by top psychologists in the country, the newspaper said, citing Liu Kun, the company spokesman.

The company planned to invite monks from Shanxi Province to hold a religious ceremony this month to commemorate the dead and bless the living, according to earlier reports.

Foxconn blamed family issues and romantic problems for the suicides.

The conclusion was backed by the Shenzhen Federation of Trade Unions. The federation cleared the company of direct responsibility for the deaths, but it said the tragedies exposed "loopholes" in the company's management.

Nan Gang was a logistics worker and received a monthly salary of 1,000 yuan (USD146) to 2,000 yuan, his colleague and townsman Nan Huan told Xinhua news agency.

"When I met Nan Gang at around 8pm last night, he told me his cell phone had been stolen and that he had little money," Nan Huan was quoted as saying yesterday.

Nan Gang told Nan Huan robbers had extorted from him before and that he would get even with them, Xinhua said.

Nan Gang's cousin Nan Feng doesn't think he would die for a cell phone. "Nan Gang changes cell phones several times per year. He would not fight for such a thing."

Nan Xiaowu, another co-worker, couldn't believe it when he heard about Nan Gang's death.

"We chatted about the previous jumpers just several days ago. He called them silly. It's unbelievable he would do the same thing."

Guo Feng, head of the logistics department where Nan Gang worked, felt sorry for his death. He said Nan was "quite outstanding," according to Xinhua.

"Certainly I did criticize him several times. It was just part of my job and definitely no reason for his death," Guo said.

Nan's death at Foxconn's Shenzhen factory came just days after an investigative team was sent by the city government to look into the string of reported suicides and attempted suicides.

A diary of a journalist of Southern Weekly has given a first-hand glimpse into Foxconn's "IT Forbidden City" in Shenzhen's Longhua Town, where hundreds of thousands of products for leading Western companies, including Apple, Intel and Sony Ericsson, are made.

Liu Zhiyi, a 22-year-old intern of the Guangzhou-based newspaper, wrote the diary after working 28 days in the Longhua complex.

His undercover reporting was initiated after the deaths of three Foxconn employees who all jumped to death from dormitory buildings within two days in April.

Liu said thousands of workers, all in same uniforms, have to start work at 4am every day. They have to repeat the same moves in front of the production lines for at least eight hours -- for a basic monthly salary of 900 yuan.

To earn more money, the workers, mostly young migrants, made every effort to get a chance for overtime. By ingratiating themselves with department heads, "reliable workers" may see their salaries top 2,000 yuan thanks to the OT, Liu said.

Cold relations with fellow workers and their supervisors reportedly made those young workers live as robots.

Liu said 10 workers shared one dorm but many did not even know each other's name. Some complained that they could not go to their supervisors for help because they would be criticized the moment they opened their mouths.

Most workers were unhappy because there are no entertainment outlets such as cinemas or parks where young workers could relax and go for dates -- though the company bragged of modern dorms, swimming pools and basketball courts, Liu said.

Liu's diary echoed the story of Qing Tong, a former Foxconn employee who quit in 2008. She published a book this year describing her three-year life at the company.

She said everything in her life, including her husband and child, had to defer to her work at Foxconn.

She had to work 13 days in a row to get one day off, and if she wanted to ask for leave for one day, she had to apply two weeks earlier. "All my life was about work, work and work," she told Shanghai Evening News.

[More Guangdong and Pan PRD News]

Editor: Shanna Chu

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