Last Thursday, 25 year-old Sun Danyong committed suicide after a fourth-generation iPhone prototype he was responsible for went missing. It’s a story, from what tech-industry friends in China tell me, of how Apple’s secretive ways send extreme pressure all the way down the company’s international supply chain.
Sun was a recent engineering graduate, and had landed a job handling product communications for electronics manufacturing giant Foxconn in Shenzhen, a leading city in the industry-heavy Guangdong province near Hong Kong. He was tasked with shipping iPhone prototypes from Foxconn to Apple. The sequence of events goes as follows, based on news reports currently coming out of China, including a major local paper, Southern Metropolis Daily. The news has yet to be reported in the English-language press, at least that I’ve seen, although it’s all over the Chinese-language Twittersphere.
On Thursday, July 9th, Sun got 16 prototype phones from the assembly line at a local Foxconn factory. At some point in the next few days, he discovered that one of the phones was missing. He suspected that it had been left at the factory, but couldn’t find it. On Monday, July 13, he reported the missing phone to his boss. Then, that Wednesday, three Foxconn employees searched his apartment — illegally, according to Chinese law. Accusations are flying that Sun was detained and physically abused during the investigation, although this has not been substantiated (possible evidence: there’s this somewhat garbled and potentially faked instant message exchange from Sun shortly before his death).
What is known: On Thursday — a little after 3 a.m. according to surveillance videos in the apartment building — he jumped out of a window in his apartment building to his death.
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