Factory Suicide Inspires Protests in Southern China

Workers protested after a colleague died on Sept. 29 at an iPhone parts plant in southern China. According to a report by the Hong Kong-based Mingpao newspaper, 32-year old He Cheng from Jiangxi Province worked for a month for the Fugang Electronics Factory in Dongkeng Town in Dongguan City in Shandong Province, before he killed himself. He Cheng requested three days leave to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival with his married sister, who had traveled from Taiwan for the holiday. Mingpao reported that the factory granted him one day, but he took three. Then the company refused to pay him for his first month’s work. Mr. Yang, a worker at the 10,000 employee Fugang Factory, told The Epoch Times that he and others were on the way to lunch on Sept. 29 at about 11 a.m.

He saw a man dressed in yellow anti-static clothes lying on the ground with his limbs distorted. The blue canopy above the man had a large hole in it, he said. Yang said security guards stopped people from taking pictures or staying nearby. When they got to the cafeteria, staff took away their cell phones, which were returned at the end of the day. Yang said he could not eat. He heard another employee say that the man on the ground was alive and moving when the security guards arrived, but the guards did not call for an ambulance or try to help him.

An employee wrote on an online forum “I was getting off work at the time and saw the man on the ground was still moving but the security guard took his time and didn’t call [for an ambulance]. I was very anxious and disappointed. “I wanted to beat up the security guard. If [factory owner] Guo Taicong’s father lay on the ground, he wouldn’t dare not get help! Employees are human beings of flesh and blood, not machines. We have limited patience if the leadership does not care about employees’ lives.” Guo Taicong is the brother of Foxconn Group CEO Terry Guo. Foxconn has had multiple employee suicides, unrest, and reports of abusive working conditions, and is known most prominently for manufacturing iPhones. The two factories work closely together.

Around 7 a.m. on Oct. 5, around 20 of He Cheng’s relatives gathered at the factory gate to burn spirit money for him, a traditional Chinese ritual for the dead. They held a banner that said, “Fugang Factory forced my son to kill himself and refused to compensate us for his death.” They used a loudspeaker to ask the company to explain. They wept and lay on the ground. According to Mingpao, the company compensated He Cheng’s family 60,000 yuan ($9,547), but police detained and threatened them. He Cheng’s sister said her family wants justice. Even though society is dark, she believes there will be light one day.

She said her whole family went to the factory but police detained them until 5 p.m. “We did nothing violent, and all we want is justice. I hope we will all stand together to fight back against this inhuman sweatshop.” Because the family’s visit coincided with a shift change, thousands of workers saw them. Employees protested as well, denouncing poor food and excessively long work hours. Police arrived to disperse the crowds. An employee wrote in a now-deleted online post that several thousand employees denounced the plant’s working conditions. A police officer grabbed a passing worker’s friend by the neck and told him to take another route.


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