The security team for Foxconn, the company that manufactures the iPhone for Apple, is said to have subjected employee Sun Danyong to "unbearable interrogation techniques," leading him to commit suicide. He was under investigation for losing a prototype device.
The rumours and reports, collected and translated by ex-Gizmodian Elaine over at Shanghaist, tell a plausible story: Sun had been handling a shipment of six iPhone prototype devices (though it's not clear when), one of which went missing. In the following days, Sun told his friends that Foxconn's Central Security Division had been inappropriately severe, subjecting him to "unbearable interrogation techniques," harassment, and even "laying hands" on the worker. Confiding in his friends was just a prelude. On the 16th of this month, Sun jumped from a 12-story building.
Foxconn has issued a statement on the matter, which, though creditable in its honesty, is chilling. The company is currently investigating a section chief of the Central Security Division for possibly using "inappropriate interrogation methods" in his investigation, including unannounced home searches, solitary confinement and physical violence.
Labour protections in China are minimal, a situation not helped by spotty enforcement and insular company cultures—especially at a manufacturing juggernaut like Foxconn. The company has been dogged by allegations of poor working conditions over the years, such that hearing an employee may have been mistreated doesn't come as much of a surprise, save for the fact that the mistreatment was so severe that it killed him. That Sun killed himself doesn't seem to be in question here, nor does the fact that Foxconn had at least some part in his death. From a company spokeperson:
Regardless of the reason of Sun's suicide, it is to some extent a reflection of Foxconn's internal management deficiencies, especially in how to help young workers cope with the psychological pressures of working life at the company.
If it turns out the these "psychological pressures" include getting your head slammed against the floor, there'd better be consequences for Foxconn, be it from the government, Apple, or both. It goes without saying that Apple can't be held accountable for a tragic one-off event at a different company, but they absolutely should be held accountable for continuing to do business with a company that treats its employees like this. We'll have to see. [Shanghaist—Image from Ars]