FoxConn Sues Newspaper

FoxConn is the Taiwan-capital China-based supplier for the Apple iPods.  In June, the UK papers Mail on Sunday and Daily Mirror published exposÚs on factory conditions at FoxConn, and caused a furor (see A Chinese View of iPod City).  This is the classical anti-brand approach because the bigger the brand, the harder it falls when it lets its workers down.  After an investigation, Apple has now basically said that things were not as bad as the two British tabloids reported, although some improvements will be required on the part of FoxConn.  This was not terribly surprising since the British tabloid reports were deemed suspect by others already.
 
The following information is presented at (InMediaHK; EastDay via Wenxue City)

Afterwards, FoxConn may have a reasonable case to sue Mail on Sunday and Daily Mirror.  Would they?  NO!  It would be too hard for them to file suit in the United Kingdom.  Instead, FoxConn has elected to go after Shanghai-based First Financial Daily in court to demand the following:

  1. Cease and desist on all reporting and commentary that damage the plaintiff's reputation
  2. Apologize publicly to the plaintiff in order to eliminate the deleterious influence and restore the reputation
  3. Compensate the plaintiff 10 million RMB for the damage to its commercial reputation and other economic damages
  4. Assume payment of all legal fees

In the interim, the Shenzhen Middle Court has issued an order to freeze the assets (such as bank savings, stocks and cars) of defendants Wang You (not more than 20 million RMB) and Weng Bao (not more than 10 million RMB).

As evidence, FoxConn cited First Financial Daily reporter Wang You (王佑)'s article titled "FoxConn workers are punished by the machines to stand for 12 hours.  The following phrases were cited as being counter-factual: 

Furthermore, the newspaper and reporter invented a saying: 幹得比驢累,吃得比猪差,起得比鶏早,下班比小姐晚,裝得比孫子乖,看上去比誰都好,五年後比誰都老 about FoxConn workers.  In translation: "They work harder than mules; they eat worse than pigs; they rise earlier than roosters; they leave worker later than 'misses'; they act more obedient than grandchildren; they look better than anyone else; they are older than anyone else after five years."

Here is the statement from the First Financial Daily reporter Wang You:

[in translation]

On June 15 and June 22, First Financial Daly published my articles related to the Taiwan-capital FoxConn: "FoxConn Workers: The Machine Punish You To Stand 12 Hours" (known hereafter as Article 1) and "Female FoxConn ex-worker: The Base Pay Is Low But The Benefits Are Very Good" (known hereafter as "Article 2").

For Article 1, I came into contact with a FoxConn worker from whom I learned certain things which I then wrote about.  For Article 2, I went to FoxConn factory in Kunshan and I gathered information there and then my editor reviewed the article.

By a coincidence that we were not aware of, Sina.com and other media carried the Mail on Sunday article: "The Secrets at Apple's Chinese factory: Female workers go 15 hours per day for 300 RMB monthly salary."  That article was based upon the FoxConn factory.

Therefore, on June 15, many websites included Article 1 with the other article and set up a special top on "FoxConn labor."  Certain websites added words like "Blood & Sweat Factory," "Dark Secrets" and so on into our newspaper's headline.  These articles received the attention of many netizens.

As a reporter, I wrote these two articles from the viewpoint of "constructing a harmonious society" and how the relevant enterprises are hiring human talents, especially the working conditions and pay status of the base-level workers.  I hope that this would be a starting point to understand how enterprises are managing the frontline workers more humanely.

At the time, I had read a few dozen complaints by FoxConn workers about their human resources system at the Xici Hutong forum.  Later on, I was browsing a small science/technology page and I saw the QQ numbers for several FoxConn workers.  I chatted for more than 30 pages with a recent university graduate and I asked him to confirm some of the comments at Xici Hutong.  He also gave me plenty of ideas.  After I finished the article, I showed it to him first for confirmation and he also gave him some opinions.  Before the article was published, I contacted FoxConn directly to verify the key facts.  I called a Ms. He at the company's public relations department.  According to her verbal feedback (I have a recording of the conversation), I took notes on many key points and I revised my article as a result.

After the article appeared on June 15, it was carried by several dozens of websites and it also generated a strong public response.  Among the more than 10,000 comments, quite a few FoxConn workers and others who know about FoxConn expressed their common opinion that the conditions described in the article exist within the company.

FoxConn then held a press conference in Shenzhen and discussed the factory situation with some mainstream media.  During that time, other invited media such as 21st Century Economic Report also followed up and some of those reports are similar to my articles in the viewpoints.

Under these circumstances, my editor decided to follow the story.  On Tuesday (June 20), I arrived at the FoxConn factory in Kunshan and I went to Yushan town where there was the largest number of FoxConn workers living.  At a cold beverage stall, I met a girl who had just left the FoxConn factory, and I interviewed her for almost 50 minutes.  On the morning of June 21, I turned in my article 2.  At the same time, our newspaper's Shenzhen reporter Fan Guojun also wrote an article about the local conditions in Shenzhen.  The editorial department wrote an editorial and all these appeared in a special feature in the newspaper.

On June 30, two representatives from FoxConn -- Zhan Donghai, who is the vice-president (special assistant to the chairman) of FoxConn subsidiary Cyber Digital Plaza Management and Li Guang, who is vice-president of Cyber Market headquarters -- asked to meet my editor and me near our newspaper.  They expressed their positions about our newspaper articles.

On that day, they were affable and natural.  Their main point was that our series of reports have aroused intense attention on the Internet and put FoxConn on the defensive.  They hoped that our newspaper would stop the series because it would make it difficult for them otherwise.  They said that they understood where the media stand.  At this meeting, they did not raise any doubts about the truthfulness of the articles.

There is one small detail, as when Zhan Donghai brought up the matters such as "turning off the computer will result in fines" in the article.  He said that he himself was not aware of these management practices.  Li Guang immediately said that the contents in the articles correspond to reality: "There is such a system of regulations and I have seen it."  Anyway, the four of us had a happy exchange of ideas.  In this kind of harmonious atmosphere, we spoke for more than 2 hours and we stopped before lunchtime.

Afterwards, we did not continue with any more reports on FoxConn.  We did not gather any more material.

Later, FoxConn invited editor Weng Bao and me to meet again, but the meeting did not materialize due to schedule conflicts.

As a reporter with a conscience, I have been moved to write many tough stories.  During my writing process, the support of the masses as well as the truth provide me with the strength to move ahead.


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