Buried in a Reuters report on Foxconn, a division of Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry, is a description of an attack on a journalist visiting a Foxconn factory in China while chasing down a lead on an Apple product. The journalist was taking pictures of the factory from a public road, he says, when two guards attacked him and tried to drag him into the factory:
In China, a Reuters reporter found out the hard way how seriously some Apple suppliers take security.
Tipped by a worker outside the Longhua complex that a nearby Foxconn plant was manufacturing parts for Apple too, our correspondent hopped in a taxi for a visit to the facility in Guanlan, which makes products for a range of companies.
As he stood on the public road taking photos of the front gate and security checkpoint, a guard shouted. The reporter continued snapping photos before jumping into a waiting taxi. The guard blocked the vehicle and ordered the driver to stop, threatening to strip him of his taxi license.
The correspondent got out and insisted he was within his rights as he was on the main road. The guard grabbed his arm. A second guard ran over, and with a crowd of Foxconn workers watching, they tried dragging him into the factory.
The reporter asked to be let go. When that didn’t happen, he jerked himself free and started walking off. The older guard kicked him in the leg, while the second threatened to hit him again if he moved. A few minutes later, a Foxconn security car came along but the reporter refused to board it. He called the police instead.
After the authorities arrived and mediated, the guards apologized and the matter was settled. The reporter left without filing a complaint, though the police gave him the option of doing so.
“You’re free to do what you want,” the policeman explained, “But this is Foxconn and they have a special status here. Please understand.”
Foxconn, which makes products for Apple, Sony, HP, Amazon, Nokia, Motorola, Nintendo, Microsoft, Dell and Cisco (and just about everyone else), has been criticized much in the past for sweat shop working conditions and the alleged suicide of an employee who allegedly lost an iPhone prototype.
Neither of those stories could lead to much given the lack of evidence, witnesses, etc. But this attack of a journalist certainly left witnesses.
If the attack had occurred in the U.S. it would almost certainly lead to lawsuits against Foxconn and criminal charges against the guards. In China, however, all the police will say is “But this is Foxconn and they have a special status here. Please understand.”
Foxconn is massive – perhaps exporting as much as $100 billion worth of hardware a year out of China. And they are under great pressure to maintain confidentiality for their clients.
But attacking a journalist, or anyone for that matter, goes too far. Foxconn will not be held to account for what happened. But maybe it’s time we started to hold those companies that do business with Foxconn – Apple, Sony, HP, Amazon, Nokia, Motorola, Nintendo, Microsoft, Dell, Cisco and other, responsible. By not buying products produced by Foxconn. Because next time someone (else) may end up dead after an interaction with Foxconn. Perhaps if they lose a few big name clients the company won’t be in the news quite so often alongside headlines involving sweat shops, physical attacks and suicides.