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How far will Apple's suppliers go to keep Apple happy?

Jeez.  Some more horror stories from Apple’s Chinese partners out of China:

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.

“You’re free to do what you want,” the policeman explained, “But this is Foxconn and they have a special status here. Please understand.”

Apple is walking a fine line here.  Sure they would like to keep their trade secrets from slipping into public or their competitors’ hands but they certainly go beyond what would seem rational.  In the US, they can only get away with suing bloggers.

In a high-profile case in China in 2006, Hon Hai sued two Chinese reporters and asked for 30 million yuan ($4.4 million) in damages for exposing alleged subpar employment practices.  The amount was later reduced to a symbolic 1 yuan, after stinging public criticism was directed at Apple. Various groups including Reporters Without Borders wrote to Apple chief Jobs asking him to intercede in the case. 

The reports were true.  Hon Hai was abusing their employees and intimidating reporters.

Reporters get off relatively easy.  For workers in China, it gets really scary.  The most obvious case of secrecy run amok is the Foxxcon worker who “jumped” to his death (Blood money paid in MacBooks) last year following accusations that boxes he sent to the US didn’t contain the stated number of iPhone 4Gs.  Clearly from the above tale, Foxxcon is more powerful than the local authorities investigating that matter, so we’ll never know what really happened.  But it isn’t hard to guess.

Apple obviously isn’t pushing the buttons on all of this, but by creating a competition to see who can control leaks “by any means necessary”, they are complicit in this behavior.  Apple still works with Foxxcon. 

But it bothers me that the people who make my shiny Apple equipment and give Apple huge margins on those earnings calls aren’t afforded basic human rights. 

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