I was reading the article, Chinese Worker & Apple iPhone 4G, from VentureBeat yesterday and it made me think that we are getting too much pressure at work. According to the story from Chinese sources [Chinese], last Thursday (July 16th) an employee of Foxconn, who is responsible for shipping prototypes from the factory in Shenzhen to Apple in Cupertino, committed suicide after being questioned for loosing one of the 16 prototype next generation (4th generation) iPhones. Is there a conspiracy?
On July 9th the employee, Sun Danyong, found one of the 16 iPhone prototypes missing, reported to his boss on July 13th, his apartment searched by Foxconn employees on the same day, and allegedly Sun was detained and abused physically during his detention. On July 16th Sun jumped to his death. Was this final act by young 25 year old Sun was the result of the pressure from Foxconn management?
I understand why Foxconn was so concern with the missing iPhone prototype, they must be worried that such an incident will damage their lucrative relationship with Apple. This concern was justifiable, as any information regarding unannounced or pre-release products by Apple garners a great deal of attention and potential value when sold. From the point of view of Apple, it could be very damaging for such a device to be leaked out to competitors or the media at this early stage of development. All in all these built up a great deal of demand for secrecy with all parties concerned.
Having said that there are ways to handle such an incident. Foxconn can inform Apple immediately and own up to the mistake; human error, and then let the experienced Apple PR handle the situation. Rather than acting on their [Foxconn] own to try to get to the bottom of the incident.
With Apple's innovative machine, I am sure the missing prototype was not the only idea Apple Design had in mind for the next generation iPhone (or media tablet). I am sure a leak like this will cost Apple a great deal and probably Foxconn, but no way it should cost someone's life. Although I am sure Foxconn management could not have predicted Sun action on the 16th.
Or can they?
The conspiracy theory is that someone up the chain from Sun had stolen the missing iPhone prototype, and s/he wanted to make it more believable as an authentic Apple iPhone prototype, so this person blamed Sun for the theft. Knowing that doing so will cause an incident, but may be not a suicide.
Otherwise, Foxconn may have kept the story hidden and only informed Apple, and the missing prototype may have been treated as just one of the many concept devices people often create to feed the Apple rumor mills. Now a person died for the prototype, this incident made the missing prototype much more valuable and validated it as authentic.
Can someone at Foxconn be so ruthless? That really depends how much the prototype was sold for. So many in China will do almost anything for money.
I want to say that I am not trying to lighten the sadness of Sun's death. It is indeed a sad consequence to such an incident. Nor am I saying that all mainland Chinese are corrupt. Can you imagine the type of pressure exists for employees of Apple?
Would love to hear readers' opinions on the subject. Should companies place such demand on their partners and employees for corporate secrets? Are there alternatives?