Electrical

iPad suicides timeline (2010)

iPad

Year: 2010

Author: Ian Cook et al

Type: followthethings.com supplement.

Availability: free online below.

Full reference: Cook et al, I. (2010) iPad suicides timeline (2010) followthethings.com (www.followthethings.com/ipadsuicidestimeline2010.shtml last accessed <insert date here>)

Introduction

This page places Hickman’s 2010 newspaper article (link) as part of a sequence of interlinked, international events and reports of events relating to the launch of the iPad, the suicides at the Foxconn factory, and the repercussions for factory workers in China of Apple’s response to the crisis.

Step 1: read this

San Francisco, January 27th 2010: at an invitation-only event, Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveils a thin, light, aluminium and glass ‘multi-touch’ tablet media player called the iPad. It is, he claims, a ‘magical and revolutionary device’ which ‘creates and defines and entirely new category of devices that will connect users and their apps and content in a much more intimate, intuitive and fun way than ever before’ (in Apple 2010a). A video of his presentation is posted on the Apple website, YouTube (see below) and elsewhere and the iPad is news around the world.

Online, March 31st-April 1st 2010: iPads distributed to a small, select ‘inner circle’ in advance of their sale are reviewed in mainstream North American media outlets – like Time magazine, ABC News and The New York Times – and on specialist blogs – like boinboing.net and the Root (Agarwal 2010). Readers submit hundreds of online comments in response, and these reviews are read, commented upon, and written about worldwide.

April 3rd 2010: the iPad goes on sale in the USA. Reports describe people queuing for days to be the first to get one in store. Customer reviews quickly appear online and in the press (Apple 2010b).

May 3rd 2010: Apple announces that one million iPads have been sold (Apple 2010c). Jobs states that “Demand continues to exceed supply and we’re working hard to get this magical product into the hands of even more customers’ (in Apple 2010d).

May 28th 2010: after delays caused by massive sales in the USA, the iPad goes on sale in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the UK (Apple 2010e). Similar scenes, stories, reviews, comments and discussions are reported in the press (e.g. Naughton & Ahmed 2010).

May 31st, 2010: Apple announces that two million iPads have now been sold. Jobs says of those still waiting, ‘We appreciate their patience, and are working hard to build enough iPads for everyone’ (Apple 2010e).

June 22nd, 2010: Apple announces that three million iPads have now been sold (Apple 2010f).

July 23rd, 2010: the iPad goes on sale in Austria, Belgium, Hong Kong, Ireland, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand and Singapore (Apple 2010g). The story continues…

Step 2: watch the video here (opens in a new window), then watch the video below:

Step 3: read this

Hong Kong, May 25th 2010: workers’ rights NGO Students and scholars against corporate misbehaviour (SACOM) publish a report (Chan 2010a) and lead a group of protestors performing traditional Chinese funeral rights at the headquarters of the Foxconn corporation (Moore 2010a&b, Li & Sexton 2010). The report details a series of 10 suicide attempts (8 ‘successful’) since the beginning of 2010 by young Chinese factory workers employed by Foxconn in Shenzhen City’s Longuhua Science and Technology Park. Foxconn is China’s biggest exporter and this is the largest factory in the world (Chan 2010a, Moore 2010b). Its 300,000 assembly workers, most young migrants from rural China, endure low pay, long hours, a tense, dehumanised workplace, and a lack of ‘affective and social support’ (Chan 2010a, 8). A Chinese journalist working under cover reports that ‘Workers are feeling exhausted to the extent that they envy their injured co-workers. Why? They can take some rest from work as they are recovering’ (in Chan 2010s, 8). Local press reports attribute the deaths to ‘overwork’, ‘too much pressure’ and ‘unstable emotions’ resulting from the factory regime. Another NGO representative argues that workers travelling the 30 miles to Shenzhen City ‘envy at people of their own age driving luxury cars and carrying the iPhones they themselves make, but cannot afford’ (Moore 2010b). TV news bulletins in China show security camera footage of one 24 year old victim ‘walking unsteadily out into the roof of a Foxconn building on the way to her death’ (Moore 2010a). An ongoing series of TV news reports about ‘Foxconn suicide’ – in Chinese, English and with English subtitles – are posted on YouTube.¹ By the time SACOM’s report is published, Foxconn workers at Longhua Park have already assembled two million iPads (alongside Nintendo Wiis, Nokia cellphones, Dell computers, Amazon’s Kindle and other popular consumer electronic devices: Hickman 2010a, Moore 2010a). SACOM’s report suggests that Apple’s marketing campaign and the enthusiastic take-up of iPads by US consumers contributed to the suicides by sending ‘extreme pressure all the way down to [Apple’s] Chinese suppliers’ (Chan 2010a, 5). The story continues…

Step 4: look at this

The Independent

Step 5: read this

May 28th, 2010: three days after SACOM publishes its report, the front page of a UK national newspaper – The Independent – brings the two strands of this story together in a starkly visual way. Beneath the headline – ‘A gadget to die for?’ – is a photograph of two objects in a spotlight. They’re the same size and shape. One is an iPad. The other is a framed photo of a young Chinese man. The text beneath one reads, ‘This is the iPad, the most eagerly awaited consumer product of the year, available in the UK from tomorrow’. The text beneath the other reads, ‘This is Ma Xiangqian, driven to suicide, the latest victim of ‘inhuman’ conditions in Asia’s electronics factories’. His suicide is detailed in SACOM’s report, and his family take this framed photograph with them to protest and mourn the Foxconn deaths (see Barboza 2010, Pomphret & Soh 2010). Apple is embarrassed by this and hundreds more mainstream and online media stories taking about the iPad to the ‘Foxconn suicides’ in the same breath,² and journalists around the world track the fallout from the story over the following days, weeks and months.

For example…

June 2nd, 2010: Steve Jobs claims the Foxconn factory is not a ‘sweatshop’, that its suicide rate is lower than the USA’s, and that Apple is ‘on top’ of the situation (Beaumont 2010). A worker dies after working a 34 hour shift (Hannaford 2010).

June 3rd, 2010: Foxconn raises basic Shenzhen factory wages by a third (Moore 2010c). SACOM declares June 8th, 2010 a ‘Global Day of Remembrance for Victims of Foxconn’, protests outside a Foxconn shareholder meeting, and hands over a petition endorsed ‘more than 5,000 organisations and individuals from over 100 countries’ (SACOM 2010; Chan 2010b).

June 9th, 2010: Foxconn is ‘employing psychologists, punchbags for prostrated workers … and safety nets around its roofs to stop workers leaping from them’ (Harding 2010).

on June 10th, 2010: Foxconn pay rises encourage workers in other Chinese factories to strike for higher pay (Foster 2010).

June 11th, 2010: Foxconn recruits monks and social workers to help workers with their problems, and workers have to sign contracts promising not to sue Foxconn as a result of ‘any unexpected death or injury, including suicide or self-torture’ (Malone & Jones 2010).

June 12th, 2010: an American Apple fan returning from Shenzhen on research for his monologue about Steve Jobs concludes, ‘It’s painful to realise that these things you love so much have blood on them’ (McKeon 2010).

The stories continue…

July 6th 2010: Chinese factory workers have been following the press coverage online, are coordinating strike action via social networking websites, and are gaining pay rises as a result of their actions (Pomphret & Soh 2010).

July 16th, 2010: Apple is no longer the ‘creative, edgy innovator that launched the iPod in 2001’, the reputation of the ‘entertainment and information colossus’ has crumbled (Hickman 2010b).

July 22nd, 2010: Foxconn workers were offered two pay rises in June which could more than double their pay, the company is increasing its prices to clients to cover increasing wage costs, the wave of strikes in China’s coastal industrial cities continues, and Foxconn is increasing automated production and moving low-margin production to new, lower-wage factories in inland China (Anon 2010). The story continues…

…and you could follow it, comment on it, send links to others about it, write about it on your blog it, create and post a mashup from its YouTube films, contact others to protest about it, write an essay about it … ‘in a much more intimate, intuitive and fun way than ever before’, if you had an iPad.

References

Agarwal, A. (2010) The new Inner Circle of Steve Jobs. Digital Inspiration April 1 (www.labnol.org/gadgets/inner-circle-of-steve-jobs/13341/ last accessed 4 August 2010)

Anon (2010) Foxconn to hike prices to cover China pay. Associated Press, 22 July (www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gFeK9437J_UKowin57Dbi1qFLfdwD9H40CS00 last accessed 5 August 2010)

Hannaford, K. (2010) Another Foxconn Employee Dies, After Working 34-Hours Straight. Gizmodo.com 2 June (http://gizmodo.com/5553223/another-foxconn-employee-dies-after-working-34+hours-straight last accessed 5 August 2010)

Apple (2010a) Apple launches iPad. Apple.com 27 January (www.apple.com/pr/library/2010/01/27ipad.html last accessed 4 August 2010)

Apple (2010b) iPad arrives this Saturday. Apple.com 29 March (www.apple.com/pr/library/2010/03/29ipad.html last accessed 4 August 2010)

Apple (2010c) Apple Sells One Million iPads. Apple.com 3 May (www.apple.com/pr/library/2010/05/03ipad.html last accessed 4 August 2010)

Apple (2010d) Apple sells two million iPads in less than 60 days. Apple.com 31 May (www.apple.com/pr/library/2010/05/31ipad.html last accessed 4 August 2010)

Apple (2010e) iPad Available in Nine More Countries on May 28. Apple.com, 7 May (www.apple.com/pr/library/2010/05/07ipad.html last accessed 4 August 2010)

Apple (2010f) Apple sells 3 millionth iPad in 80 days. Apple.com 22 June (www.apple.com/pr/library/2010/06/22ipad.html last accessed 4 August 2010)

Apple (2010g) iPad available in nine more countries this Friday. Apple.com 19 July (www.apple.com/pr/library/2010/07/19ipad.html last accessed 4 August 2010)

Barboza, D. (2010) After Suicides, Scrutiny of China’s Grim Factories. New York Times 6 June (www.nytimes.com/2010/06/07/business/global/07suicide.html?_r=1&hp=&pagewanted=all last accessed 5 August 2010)

Beaumont, C. (2010) Foxconn suicide rate is lower than in the US, says Apple’s Steve Jobs. Daily Telegraph 2 June (www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/steve-jobs/7796546/Foxconn-suicide-rate-is-lower-than-in-the-US-says-Apples-Steve-Jobs.html last accessed 5 August 2010)

Chan, J. (2010a) Dying Young: suicide and China’s booming economy. Hong Kong: Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour.

Chan, J. (2010b) Anti-Foxconn / Hon Hai Campaign. China Study Group 31 May (http://chinastudygroup.net/2010/05/dying-young-suicide/ last accessed 5 August 2010)

Fry, S. (2010) The iPad Launch: Can Steve Jobs Do It Again? Time, 1 April (www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1976935,00.html last accessed 4 August 2010)

Gideon, T. (2010) Apple iPad (Wi-Fi). PC Magazine 31 March (www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2362042,00.asp last accessed 4 August 2010)

Hickman, M. (2010a) A gadget to die for? Concern over human cost overshadows iPad launch. The Independent 27 May (www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/concern-over-human-cost-overshadows-ipad-launch-1983888.html last accessed 4 August 2010)

Hickman, M. (2010) A cautionary tale of corporate hubris and high-handedness. The Independent 16 July (www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/martin-hickman-a-cautionary-tale-of-corporate-hubris-and-highhandedness-2027810.html last accessed 5 August 2010)

Karlinsky, N. (2010) Sneak peak at the iPad. ABC News 31 March (http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/video/sneak-peek-ipad-10255279 last accessed 4 August 2010)

Malone, A. & Jones, R. (2010) Revealed: inside the Chinese suicide sweatshop where workers toil in 34-hour shifts to make your iPod. The Daily Mail 11 June (www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1285980/Revealed-Inside-Chinese-suicide-sweatshop-workers-toil-34-hour-shifts-make-iPod.html)

McKeon, B. (2010) Apple’s Rotten Core. Irish Times 12 June (www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/weekend/2010/0612/1224272334457.html last accessed 5 August 2010)

Moore, M. (2010a) Factory suicides force China to rethink ethos. The Daily Telegraph 26 May

Moore, M. (2010b) Protest at Chinese iPad maker Foxconn after 11th suicide attempt this year. The Daily Telegraph 25 May (www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/china-business/7763699/Protest-at-Chinese-iPad-maker-Foxconn-after-11th-suicide-attempt-this-year.html last accessed 5 August 2010)

Moore, M. (2010c) Steve Jobs says Apple is ‘all over’ Foxconn suicides. The Daily Telegraph 3 June (www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/china-business/7798741/Steve-Jobs-says-Apple-is-all-over-Foxconn-suicides.html last accessed 5 August 2010)

Mossberg, W. (2010) Laptop Killer? Pretty Close. Wall Street Journal 1 April (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304252704575155982711410678.html last accessed 4 August 2010)

Naughton, P. & Ahmed, M. (2010) Apple tribe comes together for worldwide iPad launch. Times Online 28 May (http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/technology/article7139041.ece)

Pomfret, J. & Soh, K. (2010) Chinese migrant workers are docile no longer. The Montreal Gazette 6 July (www.montrealgazette.com/life/Chinese+migrant+workers+docile+longer/3239643/story.html last accessed 5 August 2010)

SACOM (2010) Appeal by concerned international scholars: create human labour standards at Foxconn. SACOM.hk 8 June

Wasow, O. (2010) The Techies Are Wrong about the iPad. the Root, 1 April (www.theroot.com/views/techies-are-wrong-about ipad last accessed 4 August 2010)

Footnotes

¹ Search for ‘Foxconn’ and ‘Suicide’ youTube.com for a selection of these bulletins (a selection of 3 bulletins is embedded below).

² A search on August 5th 2020 on the Nexis database produced 346 media stories in English containing the words ‘iPad’ ‘suicide’ and Foxconn.

‘Foxconn suicides’ news bulletins

  1. www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFTtTsKZjeU
  2. www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8Y8HWlJQiE
  3. www.youtube.com/watch?v=aBoFxpM1UY0

iPad picture credit

3Gstore.de (2010) Apple iPad 3G Frontansicht, Spiegelung. Flickr Creative Commons 29 June (www.flickr.com/photos/3gstore/4746266370/ last accessed 11 May 2011)

Posted by Ian Cook (last updated March 2011). Video embedded with permission of SACOM. Newspaper cover reproduced for a fee with permission of Independent Print Limited (copyright 2010).