More anxiety and fear at Foxconn factory

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 May, 2010, 12:00am

Foxconn's Shenzhen plant, with 420,000 employees, returned to a state of anxiety and heightened alert yesterday as another worker tried to commit suicide, by slashing his wrists at about 4am.

He was a 25-year-old man who was hired on March 15, Xinhua said. He was in his dormitory at the time and survived after being taken for medical treatment.

The suicide attempt came after 12 Foxconn employees had jumped off buildings this year, 10 of them killing themselves.

Terry Gou, chairman of Foxconn's Taiwanese parent company, Hon Hai Precision, flew back to the Shenzhen plant yesterday. He had arrived on Wednesday and bowed to apologise before returning to Taiwan on Wednesday night. But the latest suicide, at 11.30pm on Wednesday night, and the wrist-slashing attempt brought him back.

Vice-Premier Zhang Dejiang, the former party head of Guangdong, is believed to have arrived in Shenzhen to handle the Foxconn issue, but there was no official confirmation last night.

Reporters from the mainland, Hong Kong, Taiwan and overseas flocked to the plant yesterday to keep a watch for Gou, the third-richest person in Taiwan, whose companies employ 900,000 people on the mainland. But he did not appear in public, making comments about the latest incidents only through statements.

In contrast with the openness on Wednesday, when all media was allowed to visit the plant, Foxconn closed its doors to outsiders yesterday. Only Xinhua was allowed to enter, along with central government officials, according to a source close to the management.

One Shenzhen citizen came to Foxconn with flowers and mourned for the dead. 'Let's pray that the 12th [jumper] will be the end. Let's hope there are no sweatshops in heaven,' he said, to applause from workers.

Hundreds of Foxconn workers gathered in front of the plant gate and whispered to each other about the incidents and how they felt.

'I've been working in Foxconn since early April. I've decided to quit next week when I get my pay for May. It's so horrible to hear about so many suicides in the plant,' one worker said. 'My colleagues all said we would follow the suicide path sooner or later if we keep working here.'

Foxconn said it had brought in more than 100 psychoanalysts to work with first-line workers. 'Those measures are superficial and don't help our problems,' one worker said.

The pent-up anger among workers exploded when a man was besieged by dozens of workers after he held up a banner saying he could prevent the suicides but that he wanted one million yuan (HK$1.14 million) from Gou.

'Life is invaluable. If you know how to stop people killing themselves, you should just say it,' one worker fired back. 'We're all scared and anxious over the next potential suicide. How hateful you are.'

The banner was ripped to shreds.