back to article Engineer commits suicide after losing iPhone prototype

A Chinese engineer committed suicide after he was allegedly roughed-up by company security services when one of the iPhone 4G prototypes entrusted into his care went missing. Twenty-five-year-old Sun Danyong, a recent engineering graduate, was employed by Foxconn, manufacturer of Apple's iPhone and iPods. According to reports …

COMMENTS

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  1. Paul Crawford Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Very sad

    No phone is worth a life.

  2. Dex
    FAIL

    Erm

    Foxconn doing the iPhone? lets hope it's not like thier mobo's.....shite to put it lightly :-)

  3. Richard Cartledge
    Grenade

    iTouch

    Probably the iTouch Pro. They just had to say iPhone 4G to keep it a secret.

  4. wsm
    FAIL

    Fail on who's part?

    Good security secures whatever without overly restricting best practices. Bad security blames people for the system they have to work with.

    If the young man lost a phone, it might have been at work. What part did the system play in that?

  5. Gangsta
    Jobs Horns

    It makes you think

    What /would/ they have done if he lost the phone?

    Death (even self -inflicted) does not fit the crime.

    Any ideas for punishment that would fit the crime. Sadly not for this one as a young human life was taken.

    Devil Steve Jobs for obvious reasons.

  6. David 45

    Suicide or not?

    Did he fall or was he pushed?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Are we sure

    Are we sure he jumped because of loosing the phone, and not in shame over having touched it?

  8. MacRat
    Jobs Horns

    In other news....

    Steve Jobs just returned from a business trip to China.

  9. Wallyb132
    Jobs Horns

    This finalizes 2 things for me...

    1. Dont buy Apple products.

    2. Dont buy Foxconn's products.

    End of story!

    I dont believe Apple for a second when they say "We require our suppliers to treat all workers with dignity and respect." Otherwise the headline would've read something like:

    Apple terminates business business dealing with Foxconn after security forces beat an engineer , who later committed suicide, over lost prototype!

    Anything less than that tells me that the only thing Apple values is their bottom line, something i will never contribute to, nor ever have...

    Its a sad day in this industry, because technology is replaceable, human lives are not...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I ...

    ... once found a Windows Mobile phone, and almost killed myself.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lessons to be learned

    No phone is worth a life. Condolences etc.

    On the other hand, those responsible for the loss of the personal details of millions of UK taxpayers on multiple occasions don't seem to think they need to be held accountable.

    Somewhere in between those two...

  12. James 55
    Jobs Horns

    Sad.

    I hate security/bouncers. The people that become them are short tempered wankers.

  13. Rodrigo Rollan
    FAIL

    YAY !!!!!

    Yeah...like the Vendor is going to admin on beating one of their employees to the world + dog. I wonder what the all american Apple Inc will do if they find out that the bbeating actually took place. Will they revert their contract ? will they compensate the family ?

  14. Christopher Rogers
    Unhappy

    Sad but not surprising

    With the levels of competition in the industry and with the attitude to business in China, its not surprising that the production of the iPhone really does make or break lives. Its like stock brokers leaping from windows after losing millions.

    All the same, a sad state of affairs.

  15. Bad Beaver

    that is...

    ... just wrong, no matter whether he was pushed or jumped. Poor young fellow. Let's hope there really is a thorough investigation. Let's hope he did not have a family depending on him.

  16. kissingthecarpet
    Headmaster

    Not loosing, LOSING

    That is all

  17. SmallYellowFuzzyDuck, how pweety!
    Unhappy

    Now thats what you call a Fanboi

    I'm sure like him us other dedicated Apple fanbois would like nothing better than the grave if we broke or lost our Apple product.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    DT

    Over at Daily Tech forums the Americans are getting hot and bothered over 1. Apple 2. Foreign workers 3. The young guy was a coward to commit suicide ... the final bit I just cannot get my head around, I can understand the US guys talking sh!te because thats what they are good at, but to completely lack any understanding of what the Chinese lad was going through to bring himself to commit suicide out of a window ...

    Then I come to read these message boards and its full of sympathy and regret and good feeling.

    Americans are a sad breed.

  19. Anonymous Cow
    Alert

    Cameras?

    "Security cameras in Sun's apartment building taped him leaping from an open window"

    Y'know, if my apartment building had cameras pointed at every window, I'd start to feel a little suicidal myself... At least they put in a 'building' qualifier: my first thought was that Foxconn had this guy wired right down to his underwear drawer.

    Still, a tragedy - just how much is a bloody phone worth, anyway? (Although that leaves aside the price the fanbois and counterfeit merchants would pay for a early prototype...)

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Err

    I think it was the invasive apartment search, the beating and the intimidation that caused him to jump... yeah sure I was tempted to mock him when I saw the title, but the story seems to be more about the bullshit corporates in China subject their employees to, rather than freakish fanboism.

    "We require our suppliers to treat all workers with dignity and respect."

    Uhuh, that's why you pick a country well known for it's mistreatment of workers and people in general to get your cheap labour.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Reminds me ...

    Of the scene in The Man Who Fell To Earth where the hired heavies hurl the accountant (and his b/f) through a plate glass window. He initially bounces off, they apologise and try again, successfully.

    Jump, my foot. He probably got the same.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fanboi

    This is why you shouldn't install windows.

    Badum Tish.

  23. Bobinbournemouth

    Taking the job seriously

    Pity the MOD cannot take the same action for the missing Bowmans

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/07/21/mod_audit_fail/

    Obviously the job is worth more than the hardware.

  24. Sean Timarco Baggaley
    Flame

    @Wallyb132

    Did you forget to switch your brain on before writing your post? Or have you conveniently forgotten all the other companies Foxconn is *contracted* to make products for?

    Apple—and any other company who works with Foxconn—is limited to reacting to events, not micromanaging a company they do not own and therefore have zero control over.

    Dropping Foxconn and transferring all production to another (Chinese or Taiwanese) corporation isn't exactly something you can do overnight. Retooling a factory to build iPhones isn't something you can do in an afternoon. And most factories like these are fully booked for months in advance.

    Yet you suggest dropping a major subcontractor over an *ALLEGED* beating which has NOT been proven in any way as yet? Just because a source makes an allegation, it doesn't mean it's true. Unless you are the kind of idiot who thinks that anything that's displayed in a web browser must be true.

  25. Jaymeister

    @Wallyb132

    Seconded. Though I generally dislike apple products and buy better, cheaper alternatives... and foxconn have generally made me believe nothing more than that their hardware is ****.

    It is a sad situation to have encountered though. Losing poor quality hardware should not be something someone has to die over.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    A sad indictment.

    Yet again we see the sociopathic methods of the multi-nationals. Maintaining the secrecy of a new phone is more important than treating employees with even a modicum of respect? A crappy electronic device encased in plastic. Where's their sense of proportion?

    Foxconn deny the beating and Apple assume the moral high-ground. They know nobody believes them, but they don't give a stuff.

  27. Fatman
    FAIL

    Jumped, or was he pushed???

    My money is on the latter. I think a security thug decided to send a message to the other slaves at Foxconn.

    The beatings will continue until the morale improves! - Foxconn management.

    I was looking for a Mao or Joe Stalin icon.

  28. Scott Mckenzie

    @Richard Cartledge

    There is no such thing as an iTouch, and never has been.... so an iTouch Pro seems somewhat unlikely. An iPod Touch Pro on the other is possible... i guess, but surely that already exists, and is called an iPhone.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    Apple PR at Risk

    Foxconn is at the very best inept and at worst murderous in dealing with the alleged loss of the prototype by Sun Danyong. Apple should terminate (sorry for the unintentional pun) the agreement and deal with a competitor that won't handle affairs in a manner that kills employees. Part of my job is to recommend hardware. Apple's response makes me a little less likely to select an Apple product.

  30. Darling Petunia

    Foxconnnnnnnn

    Known poor work environment. Free trade.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/15/AR2006061501898.html

    http://www.chinalaborwatch.org/Foxconn%20edit.pdf

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Mao or Joe Stalin icon

    Fatman is right. This site needs both a Mao and a Stalin icon. It completes the group with Cheney.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hope they switch to Quanta

    The rumours are Apple is progressively switching away from Foxconn to other suppliers, such as Quanta. This can't come soon enough.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Dex

    Foxconn are pretty good technically and they build (and sometimes design) a lot of stuff for multiple well known customers - not just Apple, but also Dell and several high profile others. Some stuff of mine has been built at the Shenzen facility and their quality is good, they are highly competent. Not shite at all.

    As for this poor man's death, I suspect it's a combination of extreme pressure because of the high profile product, local values of responsibility and honour, and maybe pressures due to the totalitarian regime in mainland China. What a terrible shame.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How did foxconn react?

    I can't really see why someone would kill themselves solely over a lost phone.

    However I can envisage a scenario where he was told that loosing the prototype meant he is loosing his job and that they'll do their best to ensure he never works again... that could push someone over the edge.

  35. barfridge
    Grenade

    A glimpse of the underbelly...

    Lit in the cold LED light of an ipod.

    This is yet another reason for me to avoid apple products. As others have said, if they had any ethics, they would be more proactive than "while it is sad that this lttle Chinese peon died, there are still a billion more of them".

  36. Wrenchy
    Linux

    Correction....

    .... No Apple product is worth a life.

    >By Paul Crawford Posted Tuesday 21st July 2009 20:04 GMT

    > No phone is worth a life

  37. Bloody_Yank
    Jobs Horns

    Culture+Youth+Intense Secret Requirements=Tragedy

    Didn't this supposedly happen at a trade show ? Maybe I'm confusing this with another lost prototype.

    Very unfortunate incident and tragic for the engineer and his family. With Apples over the top fetish for secrecy - they were no doubt leaning pretty hard on FoxConn. Possible future "contract issues" and Apple may have even had a secrecy breach statement in their contract(s) with FoxConn.

    As a HW developer for Intel in the past I've done a lot of business with Taiwan/Chinese manufacturers and pride for ones position - company - professional life is a big deal. So no doubt from top management on down this was a big deal at FoxConn. As noted he was a young engineer which may have contributed to his brash choice - but FoxConn clearly over reacted and over stepped their bounds.

    Maybe he got sloppy or careless (being so young) and the phone was stolen ... or being so small its sitting in the bottom of some desk or was tossed out with the trash.

    Also noted in the article was that Apple has contracted with companies not paying employees properly. This would not happen in Europe or the US - but as long as the masses won't pay $10 - $30 for some tech trinket we'll all have to live with some collateral damage.

  38. John Savard Silver badge

    The Real Problem

    Beating a scapegoat instead of trying to find the real culprit; this is hardly surprising. Look at the mess in Sinkiang, where a false rumor about a rape caused innocent men to be beaten at a toy factory; then the police brutally suppress a peaceful demonstration - releasing the pent-up rage of years of oppression, leading to innocent Chinese people being killed. Or the "black prisons" where local officials deal with people who come to Beijing to seek redress against them.

    We really shouldn't be dealing with dictatorships. It's that simple.

  39. Harold Onraet Khelf

    A life for a phone

    Although it is still not yet officially ascertained, Mr Sun Danyong may well have been "roughed up" by his company security services: such organizations are not reputed for employing subtle people!

    And these days, a man's life is of little value, anyway!

    A very sad affair, however detrimental the loss of a new hi-tech phone may have been to the company.

  40. James Prior

    @ AC

    You may not be able to see why someone jumped because of a phone, but it's not unusual in China where train despatchers have been known to jump if they send a train off even a few seconds late.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Apologies to sensitive people

    It's a sad case and all, I just hope he didn't remember where he left it on the way down.

  42. James Hamilton 1
    WTF?

    Apple's investigation?

    I assume Apple will be carrying out their OWN investigation, not just waiting for Foxconn's to take place?

    There is a very serious accusation that a supplier is beating its employees in China. Not a bad reason to just DROP the supplier, surely?!

  43. Richard 120
    Unhappy

    Industrial Espionage?

    The dead guy could have been involved in industrial espionage? He may have been coerced of course, or it could be about the money. I would imagine certain quarters would be quite prepared to go to extreme lengths to acquire an early prototype of an as yet unreleased version of what is an incredibly lucrative product.

    He may well have been caught between a rock and a hard place so to speak.

  44. lglethal Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    on BBC

    On the BBC write up of this it adds that Foxconn has suspended its chief of security. That doesnt sound like the sort of thing one does if the beatings were a fabricated allegation (or even if they were just believed to be a fabrication).

    £10 says they hang the chief of security out to dry, promote his deputy and nothing will change...

  45. nichomach
    FAIL

    @Sean Timarco Baggaley

    Perhaps Apple should have been prepared to retool an alternate supplier after the last time they had to whitewash Foxconn - http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/08/19/mother_jones_goes_to_china/ - over the way that they were treating their staff. I'm pretty sure that I remember something like "We require our suppliers to treat all workers with dignity and respect." then as well. Face it, Apple could get practically any supplier in the world to make their damn phone. They choose to have it made by a company with a documented history of working practices that are shoddy, bordering on evil, that just HAPPENS to be headquartered in a totalitarian regime where they still execute people after show trials. I'm sure there will be a "thorough investigation" by Apple (send some HR and PR bunnies over, have them asssured that everything's wonderful come home and then troto out another bunch of mealy-mouthed platitudes about dignity and respect. Rinse and repeat.).

  46. Lionel Baden
    FAIL

    @AC 22:39 GMT

    This is why you shouldn't install windows.

    Badum Tish.

    how the hell does that make any sense in relation to this article ??

    i smells a fanboi who needs to bash windows and just failed

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Don't blame Apple

    Apple are simply meeting the demands of consumers.

    How many of us even consider the ethical behaviour of the electronic products we buy ?

    I'm a weedy old liberal - and I don't to be honest. This sort of thing is a direct consequence of our demand for cheap gadgets and whizzy toys.

    This poor bugger will be completely forgotten about when the new iphone launches.

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    sad about his death

    Its a shame he felt he had to do this, corporate pressure over there is presumably a bitch and it did occur to me that he may have been assisted in his desicion to leave in such a unconventional manner, but thats probably because i have watched to many spy movies.

    I love all the people on here who spout about never recommending buying apple/whoever products again to there massive conglomerate buying syndicate blah blah blah. I have a iPhone finally after many years of not giving a frog, i like it !, i also still like my old windows mobile phone, there phones, i make phone calls on them !, they both freeze occasionaly on non phoney functions i reset them and get on with my life.

    The iphone has its good/bad points, so does my windows mobile phone.

    My experience of recommending products based on personal predjudice is that the people paying the bills will go for the cheapest not on the political/cultural views of the manufacturer, a enlightened Director may sometimes indicate his preference not to deal with a certain supplier if they have been twats in the past but bottom line is generally been more important. I have never been asked if supplier A sources equipment in china etc or employs children at gunpoint.

    Generally i have a laugh on here about some of the childish comments "They will never get my business again etc since they use supplier x ", yawn, everything is subcontracted all over, sourced everywhere, assembled everywhere else, shipped via godknows who by whichever dodgy company owned by whichever terrorist sponsored state. I could starve to death, freeze to death just standing up for the oppressed.

    The ONLY people i will NOT buy from is Gypsys/Travellers thats it, i would SELL to them cos there money is as good as anyones and would only have slight qualms about where they got there money but i would still happily spend it.

  49. BeefStirFry
    Alien

    A few comments

    1. Wonder if this was just the hardware device, or whether it had any software loaded on it. Software being the real treasure, not the hardware.

    2. We don't really think it was suicide do we, unless he did have a moment of madness and did purposely misplace one of the phones in an attempt to make a quick buck selling it to a competitor.

    3. I bet the next guy given the task of taking phones from A to B won't make the same mistake.

  50. Trygve
    FAIL

    @Lionel Baden

    Wow, you really have had a sense of humour failure, haven't you? Or are you such a desperate geek that you are unaware that there are non-IT uses for many words.?

    Don't install windows because people can jump out of them. Lowest form of wit and all that, but you can't have a proper tragedy without a sick joke or two.

  51. Stephen Byrne
    Unhappy

    Poor bastard

    Terrible thing to happen. Hope the guy has found some peace in the afterlife.

    They suspended the security chief because that's pretty much standard procedure when a serious allegation like that is made, same as it is here in Europe.

    And as for all the "Apple should sever ties with FoxConn and go somewhere else, stop dealing with China blah blah blah" people-

    It's the consumer that demands low prices. If you want to have these things made by ethical companies, in ethical (by our own inflated standards anyway) countries by well-treated workers, be prepared to pay a lot of money for them.

    Also, stop buying branded runners/tracksuits/any electronics/toys for your kids. Otherwise it's simple hypocrisy.

  52. david 64

    They should call the next iPhone....

    ... the iPhone Sun.

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    @ lglethal & Apologies to sensitive people..

    ... £10 says they hang the chief of security out to dry......

    its China, they hang em wet or dry.. for £10 you get front row seats .. and a slighly damaged Apple (it was in his back pocket..)

    ps.. Apple are now confident that their new iPhone G-Force meter works and are looking for another hands-on testers (previous experience not essential

  54. Tawakalna
    Unhappy

    and if turns up shortly?

    So let's say a f*cktard senior manager fiddling about in things he should leave alone moved it, or "borrowed" to show off to his bird/mates, then the poor young lad got the blame and no-one had the balls to own up, are they going to top themselves too? Don't think so, got themselves a free IPhone haven't they?

    Driven to suicide for a f*cking phone, and a sh1t one at that. What is the world coming to? I always did think that the whole iPhone thing was for tw4ts.

  55. Ascylto

    @ Tawakalna

    I just read your other anti-Apple posting on another page.

    I thought then you were an idiot.

    Thanks for the confirmation.

  56. Tawakalna
    Happy

    @Ascylto..

    I love you too!

    I can't be that much of an idiot, I didn't spunk my wedge on a silly iPhone just cos it's looks kewl down the wine bar.

  57. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Suicide

    "We don't really think it was suicide do we"

    I for one wouldn't be surpised. The pressure that corporates in the far east put on their workers, the honour system and the culture all work together. This poor guy probably felt his life wasn't worth living. And all for losing a worthless lump of plastic.

    The company I work for was recently bought by a Taiwanese company. I suffer this same kind of top-down soul-crushing despair every day of the week. They don't want workers, they want robots. I feel for the guy and his family, but not much more than I feel for every one of the poor bastards who has to work for these monsters.

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Apologies to sensitive people

    First off, I think this is a tragedy, but it's a bit dumb to blame Apple or even the company without REAL facts - all anyone has to go on is hearsay, so you can only make badly funded assumptions. If he had "help" in any way I personally hope they hang the people responsible, if it was his own decision it may be worth checking out the pressure these people live under. A life for a phone is too much, plain and simple.

    However, hats off to the comment "Apologies to sensitive people" - that was by far the blackest bit of humour I've come across in quite some time. Awesome, truly awesome. This is why I keep coming back..

  59. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    @David 45

    "FELL"

    *cough*

    *cough*

    "FELL"

    Anyway, it's not an iTouch, it's an iSkrewU

  60. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    @AC 21/7/2009 22:15 GMT

    Let's keep in mind a couple things.

    1. There are plenty of Americans on this page. I happen to be one of them. In my experience, most of us recognize a tragedy when we see one.

    2. I don't judge British culture by web page comments. Please give American culture the same benefit of the doubt.

  61. steogede
    FAIL

    re: on BBC

    >> On the BBC write up of this it adds that Foxconn has suspended its chief of security. That doesnt sound like the sort of thing one does if the beatings were a fabricated allegation (or even if they were just believed to be a fabrication).

    Sounds exactly like the sort of thing a responsible organization would do. If you are required to investigate an allegation against an employee, the responsible thing to do is suspend them on full pay. It it turns out they are guilty, you've prevented them from doing any more harm, if it turns out they are innocent they haven't lost anything (they've gained a little free holiday). Nothing unusual about this.

  62. Jelliphiish
    WTF?

    sad

    a poor thing to have happenned. suicide or not, someone's at fault here. my overly developed Cynic Gland says nowt will come of it.

    there are enough people likely to have a stake in the acquisition of a somewhat important product prototype that it could easily have been purposefully obtained/nicked, and that certainly seems where the 'thoughts' of those involved in 'investigating' the loss process have gone. and, i suppose, what ever pressure was placed on the poor soul, he might have jumped. They do seem very serious about personal honour and such.. it may seem alien to our western values but it should not be underestimated as cause, even if some of the specifics are suspicious in origin.

    @ the people pointing at apple as complicit, i'd suggest they look at the cost of production and the customer price point and turn some degree of complicity upon themselves.

    also, i'm sure i've seen a number of motherboards with Foxconn component scattered about them, intel for one used to have a major fabrication deal with them for sure.. i see no less complicity there also.

    i'm certainly complicit. i buy these things as cheaply as anyone.

    @Apologies to sensitive people.. the polite applause in the background shall be for you, humour blacker than the inside of a cat.

    condolences, as if anything on here matters..

  63. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Spin

    Look at all the spin by Apple fanboys here. In the UK, whenever a mistake is caused by a low civil servent, everyone would be gagging for Gordon Brown's head. But here, no, it is the security guard's fault. It has nothing to do with Foxconn or Apple. Yeah whatever. Bleeding hypocrites.

    Apple fanbois = fail

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