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Concerns Over 13th Suicide Attempt At Foxconn

May 28, 2010

An employee of China-based Foxconn Technology Group attempted to kill himself Thursday, becoming the company’s 13th worker to commit or attempt to commit suicide this year, China state media reported.

According to an official Xinhua News Agency report, police said the 25-year-old man, surnamed Chen, survived after cutting himself in his dormitory room at the factory.

Chen began working at Foxconn two months ago after migrating from the central Hunan province.

Foxconn, part of Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., is the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer.  The sprawling Foxconn factory, located in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, assembles electronics for tech bellwethers such as Sony Corp., Dell Inc., Apple Inc., Nokia Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co.

However, the company has gained a bleak image in recent months as a place where distressed workers routinely throw themselves to their deaths.

The 12 previous suicide attempts at Foxconn’s operations in southern China involved workers who jumped from buildings, two of which survived. 
Another employee killed himself in January at a Foxconn factory in northern China.

A 23-year-old worker from the northwestern province of Gansu killed himself late Wednesday night by leaping to his death from a dormitory balcony. 

The death occurred just hours after Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou had led a media tour of the industrial park and pledged to make life better for workers to prevent more deaths.

Gou said he couldn’t sleep at night, and feared answering his phone during off hours, dreading news of more deaths.

During the media tour, Gou showed off a motherboard factory, hot line center and even a swimming pool for workers.   The walled-in facility, where 300,000 people work, resembles a small city, with fast-food restaurants, banks and a bookstore sitting among enormous factory buildings and massive dormitories on streets lined with palm trees.   Workers live inside the complex and assemble products in round-the-clock shifts.

Gou promised to do everything possible to prevent more deaths, including installing safety nets on buildings and hiring more counselors.

“Although this seems like a dumb measure, at least it could save a life should anyone else fall,” Gou was quoted as saying, referring to the safety nets.

He said workers were being divided into groups of 50, whose members would be on the lookout for signs of emotional distress within their group.

Labor activists claim the company has an inflexible management style, with a secretive corporate culture that overworks its employees with harsh working conditions and a too-fast assembly line ““ allegations Foxconn denies.

Apple and other customers have said they are investigating working conditions at Foxconn, Reuters reported. 

Shares of Foxconn’s stock rose 4.2 percent in a Hong Kong market, closing up 1.2 percent after having fallen to a seven-month low earlier this week.

Shares of Hon Hai’s stock fell 0.4 percent in Taiwan, despite the broader market closing up 1.1 percent.

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