Deaths at Hon Hai Could Raise Questions for U.S. Companies

The death of another employee at Taiwan-based electronics manufacturer and assembler Hon Hai Precision Industry not only casts scrutiny on the working conditions at its factories in China, but could also fuel concerns for U.S. companies like Apple (AAPL) and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) that sell products made by Hon Hai.

Cardboard cutouts resembling iPhones were sent on fire by labor activists near the Hon Hai office in Hong Kong on Tuesday.
An employee of Hon Hai died after falling from a building at the firm’s plant in southern China Tuesday, following several others this year, China’s state media Xinhua news agency reported. Most have been ruled suicides, although the most recent death and several others have not been classified.

The cause of the spate in suicides among workers at Hon Hai, which also is known by its trade name Foxconn, is hard to pinpoint. Statistically, the rate of suicides isn’t exceptional given the size of the company’s staff–it has 800,000 workers in China, about half of those in Shenzhen–and it’s unclear to what degree the wave of incidents is a result of copycat behavior as found in suicide clusters elsewhere or if there are other factors.

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