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Apple Supplier Foxconn Suffers 10th Death This Year, Asks Workers To Sign Anti-Suicide Pledge

Huffington Post/AP   First Posted: 05/26/10 10:09 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 05:35 PM ET

China Foxconn Deaths

UPDATED 5/26/2010

GUANGZHOU, China -- A Chinese employee of Foxconn Technology Group jumped from a building to his death Tuesday, state-run media said, in the 10th suicide this year at the world's largest contract maker of electronics, such as the iPod, Dell computers and Nokia phones.

Police said Li Hai, 19, killed himself after working at the plant for only 42 days, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. Foxconn did not immediately comment on the death.

The suicide is the ninth at Foxconn's massive plant in the southern city of Shenzhen, which employs more than 300,000 people. Two other workers have tried to kill themselves by jumping from buildings in Shenzhen but they survived. Another suicide occurred at a smaller plant in northern Hebei province in January.

Labor activists say the string of suicides back up their long-standing allegations that workers toil in terrible conditions at Foxconn. They claim shifts are long, the assembly line moves too fast and managers enforce military-style discipline on the work force.

In Hong Kong on Tuesday, about a dozen labor activists protested at Foxconn offices in the Chinese territory. They held signs that said, "Foxconn lacks a conscience" and "Suicide is no accident." The protesters from the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions burned cardboard cutouts resembling iPhones.

But Foxconn has insisted that workers are treated well and are protected by social responsibility programs that ensure their welfare. The Shenzhen factory is perennially a popular place to work, with hordes of applicants lining up for jobs during the hiring season.

On Monday, Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou told reporters, "We are certainly not running a sweatshop. We are confident we'll be able to stabilize the situation soon."

Tuesday's reported death came just three days after a 21-year-old man who worked in the logistics department jumped from a four-story building shortly after finishing the night shift Friday. His motivations were still not known.

The highest-profile Foxconn death happened last July when Sun Danyong, 25, jumped to his death after being interrogated over a missing iPhone prototype.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Foxconn has instituted new measures in an effort to stem the spate of suicides, which include asking employees to pledge that they will not commit suicide:

Workers have reportedly been told to sign letters promising not to kill themselves and even agree to be institutionalised if they appeared to be in an "abnormal mental or physical state for the protection of myself and others". Nets were also reportedly being hung around buildings to deter suicidal employees.

Apple has issued a public statement about the deaths at the factory. Apple spokesperson Steven Dowling said Apple was "saddened and upset by the recent suicides at Foxconn." He also noted, "A team from Apple is independently evaluating the steps they are taking to address these tragic events and we will continue our ongoing inspections of the facilities where our products are made."

Earlier this year, Apple released the findings of a probe into its suppliers' labor practices. Although Foxconn was not specifically named, Apple did admit it found "more than a dozen serious violations of labor laws or Apple's own rules at its suppliers that needed immediate correction," the AP writes. Among other violations, Apple found that some of its suppliers had employed child labor in their factories.

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Associated Press writers Debby Wu in Taipei, Min Lee in Hong Kong and researcher Zhao Liang in Beijing contributed to this report.

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