China: Missing iPhone pressured mainland worker to suicide

Sun Dangyang, 25, was born in a small village. He earned his college degree in Harbin University and was then employed by Foxconn, a Taiwanese company and one of Apple’s largest contractors. His parents were proud of their son however they never expected that the job and an iPhone would finally lead to Sun’s death.

On the morning of 16, July, Sun’s body was found at the foot of his apartment block. He left his last words to his girlfriend and some of his friends. Though the exact cause of his death is as yet unknown, judging from his messages, he committed suicide because he was suspected by Foxconn of stealing an iPhone G4 prototype.

The missing iPhone was deadly to Mr Sun. The security chief of Foxconn, in fear of Steve Jobs’ wrath, was said to have harshly interrogated Sun and searched through his home. The reason that Sun was so heavily pressured was that losing an iPhone prototype could mean losing the contracts from Apple which are worth millions of dollars and thousands of jobs.

Sun’s last message to his girlfriend reads:

“My dear, I’m sorry, go back home tomorrow, something has happened to me, please don’t tell my family, don’t contact me, this is the first time that I have ever begged you, please agree to that! I am so sorry!”

After that, he apparently committed suicide.

It could have been a normal if regrettable piece of news since suicide because of intense commercial pressure is not so surprising in China, where the industries are highly competitive. But a sensational post widely circulated on the internet changed everything. The post allegedly recorded an online chat of Sun with one of his friends studying in France. In the online chat which happened right at the night of his death, Sun implied that he was beaten up and humiliated by Foxconn staff.

Sun, as the person responsible for mailing the iPhone prototype back to Apple in US, was the major suspect according to his boss. Sun’s 3-day delay of reporting the loss to his manager further added to suspicion of him. But in the chat Sun explained to his friend:

这件事情后果严重不 ?
好友2 00:13:42
好友2 00:14:12
我之所以脱了3天才告诉主管,是因为我一直在找,我当时只是以为机台应该还在产线,想自己把问题处理掉,后来实在找不到了,也知道如果机台泄密会对公司有很严重的后果,就给JEFF 打电话告诉他了

Calm down and think back what has happened.
There can only be two reasons for the missing iPhone.
First, before I packed it up it had been stolen.
Second, someone stole it that night after it was packed.
I know you are not that kind of person. But you should keep alert of others too. Is it serious?
Though the paper box was sealed, it could be sealed afterwards with the strip seal I put there, and I found the box had been touched by some one.
What will happen to you?
I told my boss 3 days later because I had been looking for it. I thought more prototypes were on the streamline so I wished to handle the trouble myself. But I had no way to find it back and I know that leaking an iPhone is very serious a problem. So I called Jeff (his boss)


Sincerely, what I said to the security department today is all true though it might look suspicious in some places. I can understand you. If it were you I would thought the same way.
But I can’t afford the humiliation of my personality.

Sun then said:


“Even at a police station, the law says force must never be used, much less in a corporate office. I was just a suspect, my dear head of security, so what reason and right do you have to confine me and use force?”


Don’t be discouraged and don’t do something overacted.
It is my fault. I am sorry. But it was f**king not me that took the iPhone.

那个关人的房间居然没有摄像头,太他妈强了,去过C02 1.5F 这么多次,这次才发现那里还有这么个@#的世外桃园,不知有多少人被在那负过

So you should live on to show to those bastards that you are innocent.
But this time, I guess something much worse would soon happen. I might be beaten up again without any reason and thrown to the police station? I don’t know.
Sun, be careful now, keep evidence and don’t resist when there is no way out.
The place that confined me doesn’t have CCTV! F**king a**hole. So many times had I been there but I had never found the place. I can't tell how many people had been bullied over there.


Thanks my colleagues in this one year. It was a great time with you. Particularly my dear chief Jeff. Appreciate your help. I had so many problems and you always help me deal with the customers.


My last word, I didn’t take the Iphone N90

我真的是被你欺负得没话说了,亲爱的@#课长,希望你会很快得到应有的报应,虽然你们有能力打我,虽然能很快再造出一台机子来,但那是FOXCONN 强,不是你强

I was so pissed off, dear security chief. Hope you will get your retribution. Though you can beat me and make a new machine soon, it is the power of Foxconn, but not you.
Yes, one thing more. I am still paying back the interest of my college loan. Hope it won’t affect my brother and sister. Sorry for that. See you, my friend. I feel much better thinking that I don’t have to be bullied anymore and I don't need to be a scapegoat.

Two hours later, Sun apparently jumped from the top of the building.

The record was verified and thought to be authentic. Journalists soon found the security chief, Gu Qinming mentioned by Sun. Gu Qinming replied:


On 15, July, I went to the site where Sun allegedly packed up the iPhones. Sun described the scene where he received the phones from the production department, and said he left for a while during the process.


But after the first investigation, I heard from his female colleague that he was there during the entire process, different from what he said, so I need to check it out with him.

He also denied that he searched Sun’s home by force.


It was Sun himself who asked us to search his house so that he can be proven innocent. ‘I thought it was not so appropriate but he insisted on that. So I asked him to sign an agreement.

Not many people trust the apology of Foxconn.
gaofei8292 said,


I am working in Foxconn too. I feel exactly the same with what the post states. Everyone who has worked there would feel the same. Indeed, that’s the way Foxconn is.

牵着蜗牛过马路 echoed the complaint:


Good luck on your journey to another world. I am working in Foxconn too. I have to say that we have no dignity at all. The mainlander cadres are like the dogs of those senior chiefs from Taiwan. They crushed the grassroots together.

82926303 said Foxconn is too powerful a company to beat:

没有哪个电视台愿意曝光一些富士康的东西,即使你给他钱也不愿 意,因为不想惹祸上身,多一事不如少一事,富士康太厉害了,因为根源有政府的支持,因为有钱,因为有专业的有名的法律团队……

No TV station would expose the dark side of Foxconn, even if you give them money. Foxconn is so powerful that they got the government support and have enough money and well-known lawyer team.

On the internal forum of Foxconn, there are also posts regretting Sun’s death and complaining about Foxconn’s suppressing atmosphere. Taiwan businessmen are thought to be just like foreign suppressors. sgqlove520 said


Sigh! The businessmen from Japan and Taiwan don’t treat Chinese workers as human. But so what? The mainstream media doesn’t report on the issue at all. Neither did the government do anything. Who on earth would stand up to protect the life and dignity of Chinese labor?

(Bob Guy also contributes to the post.)

The number one cause for suicide is untreated depression. Depression is treatable and suicide is preventable. You can get help from confidential support lines for the suicidal and those in emotional crisis. Please visit to find a suicide prevention helpline in your country.

1 comment

  • the tank man

    sorry to see that Sun didn’t make it to the end,even though the chance being cleared up might be rather slim, there is still hope though.
    i have been feeling depressed and heart-rended reading
    his last chat log an thousands of miserable hearbreaking
    stories ordinary chinese men and women are going through
    now. i couldn’t help thinking sometimes what if it was me who was trapped in that shitty mess. if the death is a weak
    silent retreat or counterattack or whatever people may call it, i would rather make it a bit more fussy and sensational

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