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May 6, another Foxconn worker leaped to his death, and this is jump number 7 since January, another suicide, again jumping off a building, again at Foxconn. People call it the “7 consecutive jumps”. I also recall writing about an incident last July, a Chinese worker at Foxconn committed suicide after iPhone prototype went missing. Everyone wants to know why so many Foxconn workers are jumping to their death, 7 of them just this year? What was behind the incidents? Is it coincidence or inevitable? In response to people’s concerns, recently CCTV “News 1+1” reporter conducted an investigation on this.
Lu Xin, 24 years old, joined Foxconn in August 2009. In the company newcomers’ talent contest, the new college grad won 2nd place. But on May 6 morning, this young man who loved music, once was even a contestant on the “Super Boy” show chose to leap off the building and ended his young life.
Zeng Hongling (Lu Xin’s college classmate) recalled, “He said he was going to look at the scenery and right after he finished his sentence, he quickly slide open the window and jumped onto the balcony, then jumped off from the balcony. He never hesitated. I tried to grab him, but only pulled his clothes on his left arm, he threw my hand off.”
Zeng Hongling felt guilty because he couldn’t grab on to Lu, he was Lu’s college classmate and joined Foxcoon together with him after graduating. Ever since May 1, Zeng noticed that Lu was not in a good mental state. He often said someone was following him and even trying to kill him. He also expressed thoughts of going back to his home town in Hunan Province.
Zeng Hongling, “Every time when he got off the car, he went looking for the patrol police, he said that someone people want to kill him and want to harm him.”
Lu registered a blog in February, it recorded his dreams of pursuing music. In his last post on March 4, Lu Xin wrote, “If I really could, I would write music every day. I don’t have money, don’t have music hardware equipment, even don’t want to spend money on a computer, even more, cannot find a record company, youth flies away. 24 years old, I can still do it? I will devote, at least this year I am going to pursue.”
Lu’s death left people with regrets, and also a little puzzled, in fact this is the number 7 Foxconn worker jumping-off-building-suicide incident coming into 2010.
Here is the rundown:
January 23, 2010, at 4 pm, 19 year old Foxconn employee Ma Xiangqian died. The Police investigation said it was a high-fall death.
March 17, 2010, in Foxconn Longhua park district, a new female employee jumped from the 3rd floor dormitory, was injured after the fall.
March 29, 2010, in Longhua factory district, a male worker fell from the dormitory building, died on the spot, 23 years of age.
April 6, 2010, 18 year old female worker Rao jumped from Misson Hills C8 female dormitory building, currently still hospitalized.
April 7, 2010, at Mission Hills outside factory dormitory, a female employ named Ning fell to her death at age 18.
April 7, 2010, Mission Hills Cheung Kok Estate, Foxconn male employee committed suicide and died at age 22.
May 6, 2010, Longhua factory district male worker Lu Xin jumped off a 6 floor balcony and died at age 24.
According to Foxconn, the similarities of these suicide incidents are, the deceased are aged between 18 and 23, and they are all newly recruits of Foxconn.
In an interview, Foxconn spokesman Liu Kun admitted that the management has loopholes, but facing the huge number of 420,000 employees in Shenzhen, and as for why the spate of such incidents; how to avoid similar incidents from occurring, he also seemed to be helpless.
Do we really have preventions in place? Can we really touch 420,000 people’s heart? As a business, we are not capable of doing this. And I don’t know what reason will cause the eighth jump.
After the incident on May 6, some psychological experts were invited to Shenzhen Foxconn, including the Deputy Director of Qinghua University, Department of Psychology of Conflict Fan Fumin.
Director Fan, we know that Lu Xin was finally determined to have mental issues, but the company only sent his friend to accompany him, why was he not directly sent to the hospital?
This is a good question. The company has its difficulties. Logically speaking, people with mental disorders should be taken to the hospital, but who has the right to do so? In general, it requires the consent of the family. Because we don’t have such law, generally only the police have the rights, the company cannot force to send him to the hospital.
I understand. I also have a question for you, because we know this is already the 7th incident since this year. So many building jumping suicides in such short time, from a scientific principle point of view, is the rate of occurrence considered high?
Statistics from the World health Organization is based on suicide rate of per 100,000. Currently China’s suicide rate is about, according to health Ministry statistics, around 16 per 100,000.
Is this in one year?
Yes, after we went to Foxconn, we feel it is a very large company with over 400,000 people.
You think 400,000 people company has…
2 to 3 out of 100,000, we also compiled statistics for college students, about 2 to 3 out of 100,000.
Do you think this is low or within the range?
Compare to China’s national suicide rate, should be low.
But age 15 to 34, from the statists suicide is the main cause of death.
Ok, thank you. Yiansong, directory Fan thinks the suicide rate is in the normal range, what do you think?
I think this issue has two levels, first as a business, Foxconn has its difficulties, one it’s a factory, the factory district where Lu Xin committed suicide has 30,000 people, including Shenzhen, it has over 40,000 people, like a sizable city. But it is not equivalent to a city, because in a big city, there are families, the kind of psychological comfort, affection and effective observations between family members and so on. In a city formed by families is actually easier, but in here is an obviously a factory district. Children between 18 – 23 years old, born after 80s and 90s are 80% of the entire population, over 300,000, this is a very scary figure.
Second, post 80s and 90s new generation working in a foreign place, their resilience and ability to endure hardship is weaker than the previous generation. Also this generation’s self esteem is more fragile, they feel more pressured and they have more dreams. Not just taking care of the family, they have their own dreams, often easily pressured in this tin-can like factory district. Dreams disappear, they easily become desperate, it is truly difficult, but this is only one aspect.
You said the company has difficulties, what are their responsibilities?
Yes, I want to say the other side of the coin, as Foxconn’s spokesman said, “Facing Lu’s suicide, this time we tried our best.” First I admit they have tried this time. Because Lu Xin had illusions including someone tries to kill him, they requested psychological specialist and also his friend to accompany him. They also brought his parents from far away to Shenzhen. His parents were 4 hours away from Shenzhen before he committed suicide. But I feel at least there are two points we would like to question.
First, I think actually telling Lu in advance that his parents are coming was not necessarily a good choice. Because he was already delusional, there has been a lot of pressure and frustration that he was very afraid of meeting his parents, so called he has no face to see them. Parents are coming may became a catalyst and generated more pressure.
Second, I think everyone will understand once i say it. Before this, there have been six other jumping incidents, this time he and the two people who accompanied him were arranged to stay on the sixth floor. Even the spokesperson said, “Only if the psychological experts gave us more detailed guidance, we would not have put him on the sixth floor.” Even if it was first floor or the basement, this tragedy will at least be delayed. Therefore I think this is merely a representation of the responsibility, there are more responsibilities behind.
The reporter then interviewed many Foxconn job seekers and employees. Job seekers came here because they heard that the compensation is decent here and Foxconn had a good reputation. But many employees reveled that Foxconn has many management issues. “I can only say that Foxconn provided employee handbooks and their management requirements, they are very good. However the lower level is a mess, lower level management is a mess.” Female worker Ma Liqun said, “Our level employees work hard, everyday working like machines, you can say that we are trained to become machines. Another thing is the lower level leaders do not respect our self-esteem. Sometimes, they yell at us, being yelled at is normal.”
Another employee Liu Lan said, “In an ordinary workshop in Foxconn, to complete a circuit board requires dozens of procedures, needs every workers to be accurate to the seconds. The atmosphere has a strong emphasis on efficiency and execution. For example, posters on the walls that say “Value efficiency, every minute every second!” can be seen everywhere.”
But when starting to work here, if experiencing psychological problems, they can get help from newly formed Employees Care Center.
There is a telephone hotline, 785785, that is please help me please help me (phonetically in Chinese). When someone calls in, we will contact various sectors. Since the recent building jumping incidents, we already effectively intervened over 20 possible tragedies.
First Foxxcon, as a one of the fortune 500 companies, I think it is easy to condemn, but also hope that Foxconn will make a standard for other companies when facing similar problems and make a clear path.
I think first, it is too big, this plant has more than 300,000 people, and Shenzhen over 400,000. A good company is not because it is big, but if it can let people to be closer. For example, in the 7 suicide incidents, many of them, in their dorms, 8 people shared a room. But because living is arranged according to working distance, the people in the same dorm still do not know their phone numbers after over a year, never contacted them. So when they had issues, including Lu Xin, they first went to the classmate. So how to be small in a big company, feel warmth in a smaller place, not letting everything feel hopeless amount 300,000 people. You have to know Lu Xin is not an ordinary migrant worker, he graduated from college to become a leader here, however there are over thousands of leaders at Foxconn, think about the pressure.
Second is to change someone’s thinking. We can no longer treat this generation like the older generation of migrant workers and have high expectation of their toughness and patience. This is a new group, post 80s and 90s are not the same as before.
I also have a suggestion, if you want to cruelly analyze the suicide rate to be not so high compare to 400,000 people, but the problem is there are 6 suicides since March. Foxconn should really work on preventions. Because this kind of suicide has a certain tendency of imitation, when seeing other people jumping, during one’s painful time, he/she may also choose this method. Intervene early, I think is good for preventing it from spreading. Of course, I very much hope Foxconn will make a gesture.
Companies like Foxconn is labor-intensive, and the future labor cost may be increasing, profit margin will become smaller and smaller. Maybe when facing this issue in the future it must consider.
I think not just Foxconn, China’s future development are facing a new game, that is the cost is getting bigger, not only the cost of wages, but new costs, cost of psychological needs, cost of harmony, cost of communication with the employees. I feel any business in the future when calculating the cost must consider these elements. I think China’s reform is at a point facing a new challenge, that is before we attracted a steady stream of people, and we do not have to consider their benefits, mental states and recreations, but now we have to.
As I am writing this, jump number 8 happened today, May 11, a Foxconn female employee jumped off 8th floor of a building to her death…
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