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Death of Foxconn worker puts supplier back in spotlight

The story, at first, sounded like a wild Internet rumor -- 25-year-old Sun Danyong, an employee with Apple contract manufacturer Foxconn (also known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co.) leaped to his death following the disappearance of an iPhone prototype. It seemed somewhat far-fetched -- after losing the prototype, Danyong supposedly had his apartment illegally searched, and he was reportedly treated roughly by Foxconn security personnel.

But on Tuesday, Apple released a statement to CNET acknowledging Danyong's death without providing any additional details. "We are saddened by the tragic loss of this young employee, and we are awaiting results of the investigations into his death," Kristin Huguet told CNET. "We require our suppliers to treat all workers with dignity and respect."

This is not the first time that Foxconn's treatment of its employees has come into the spotlight. In 2006, Chinese reporters alleged that the company was not following labor laws, and the company subsequently admitted it. Apple's investigation at the time revealed some issues, but found the company mostly in compliance with its supplier responsibility standards.

There is incredible pressure from suppliers to retain business from high-profile companies -- like Apple -- who not only attract a lot of money, but prestige as well. Knowing how highly Apple values secrecy in the product development process, manufacturing concerns fear the loss of business if a leak can be pinned on them. For an NSFW but surprisingly insightful take on the tragedy, take a look at today's post from Fake Steve Jobs (Dan Lyons).

As reported in the Wall Street Journal, Chinese media is blaming Foxconn's management for Danyong's death. Given the information available, however, it does not appear that Apple was directly involved in this case. The case has been handed over to Chinese police for further investigation.

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