The following is my latest post on Digital East Asia.
Just hours after Terry Gou, the CEO of troubled manufacturer Foxconn Technology Group (PINK: FXCNY | (part of Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. Ltd.) TPE: 2317), concluded a large PR crisis management effort which included a tour of their Shenzhen plant for close to 300 journalists on May 26, Xinhua news agency reported that there had been another death. This piece of news has already been widely covered in the media globally, such as this WSJ opinion piece. Furthermore,news has spread of another (unsuccessful) suicide attempt, in which an employee had cut his wrist.
But to make matters even more worse, Chinese “netizens” are spreading stories on Chinese microblogs, bulletin board systems and other forums of “14th”, “15th” and “16th” attempts. As Chinasmack, a popular China blog, reports, the current rumor is that the “14th” and “15th” had jumped together; and that the “16th” was in a standoff on the roof (with a blurry photo attached as evidence). As of now these rumors have not been validated by any major media outlet.
Foxconn has taken drastic measures as of late to control the “suicide cluster”. It got into a bit of a PR firestorm with its alleged “non-suicide pact” with employees (full translation of the documentavailable at Shanghaiist). It was also reported that they were erecting 2 meter (6 feet 6) high walls on top of buildings and installing safety nets; one twitter post claimed that insiders were saying windows were being locked down (only able to open about 10 centimeters, or 4 inches). And employees were being urgently organized into small groups. There were also reports (link in Chinese) that Foxconn was considering 20% wage increases, which they claim had nothing to do with the recent suicides.
On another note, noted Chinese intellect and blogger Hu Yong urged in a blog post (link in Chinese) for the public to stop using “xx consecutive jumps” to discuss the incidents. He said this was inhumane and also as if people were expecting “records to be broken”. Leading Chinese blogger / writer Han Han, who came in 2nd on the Time 100 poll last month, also wrote a new blog post (link in Chinese) on Foxconn. Han’s main point seems to be (if I may summarize) that for the “ordinary people“ of China, who can’t afford the ever-increasing housing prices and barely make a living on their meager incomes, there isn’t hope for a better future. They are the “low cost” that fuels China’s growth, and it’s not really surprising that when they see no hope they see suicide as a way out.