Jenny Chan on Apple, Foxconn, and the Lives of Chinese Workers

  • Jenny Chan



Dr Jenny Chan interviewed by Russell Mokhiber. Transcripts online.


About Jenny's co-authored book, Dying for an iPhone.

Period3 Oct 2020

Media contributions


Media contributions

  • TitleJenny Chan on Apple, Foxconn, and the Lives of Chinese Workers
    Degree of recognitionInternational
    Media name/outletCorporate Crime Reporter
    Media typeWeb
    Duration/Length/Sizetranscription and online interview (90 minutes)
    Country/TerritoryUnited States
    DescriptionChan is an Assistant Professor at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

    “We kept asking the question, when they were so young, seeming to be very hopeful, how did this happen?” Chan told Corporate Crime Reporter in an interview last week. “They were working in the world’s largest factory. It’s one of the more advanced factories in China. It is not just a very cheap small workshop. It is a large factory that has in total more than one million workers across China. If people had very promising jobs, why did they kill themselves?”

    “In that year, the company management gave lots of reasons like – these young people, they are just not enduring hardship like their parents. Some of them just broke up with their girlfriends or boyfriends. They even got into heavy debt. So they just killed themselves because of all other social or psychological problems. But none of the reasons are related to management or the work pressure they are facing.”

    “We could not accept that kind of explanation. And it was really the tragedy, why these young people who are from rural families, who are from the countryside from around China, got a paid job, but still, there were as many eighteen young workers who attempted to commit suicide and fourteen of them were unfortunately successful.”

    “Four survived, but they had crippling injuries. I ended up interviewing one of the suicide survivors. She was only seventeen. That was the beginning of this investigation.”

    “We have been doing some undercover investigations. We did write letters to the CEO of Apple, as well as to the chief executive officer of Foxconn. We wanted to understand what had happened.”

    “Why in our book did we only highlight two companies – Apple, the most profitable tech company in the world and their supplier Foxconn?”

    “This is a very simplified supplier buyer link in the global and electronics production sphere. These relationships are very illuminating. It will open up a window for us to understand better about the global pressure and how does it translate onto the factory floor and the consequences on these workers.”

    “We wanted to understand the problem. We didn’t want to have the tragedy repeated.”

    “We looked at corporate responsibility, but we also wanted to look at the nature of the Chinese government.”

    “How does it address labor issues? Does it really implement the law to protect workers? Does it work at all with the official trade unions?”

    There is a trade union at Foxconn. But it is a company trade union. It is illegal for workers to organize independent trade unions in China.
    Producer/AuthorCorporate Crime Reporter (Russell Mokhiber)
    PersonsJenny Chan


  • Dying for an iPhone
  • Apple
  • Foxconn
  • China