Journalist Brian Merchant managed to enter Foxconn’s Longhua complex in Shenshen, China, home to around 450.000 workers. The Longhua complex received a lot of media attention in 2010, when employees committed suicide by jumping off the high buildings. Unfortunately, not much has changed since then.

The Taiwanese Hon Hai Precision Industry, better known as Foxconn, is with 1,3 million employees the largest employer in mainland China. The Longhua complex is often described as ‘Foxconn city’. It is estimated that around 450.000 people are employed in the complex, who sleep in dormitories and eat in the cafeterias located at the complex.

Foxconn, a major supplier of iPhones, became widely known in 2010 because desperate workers committed suicide by jumping off the high buildings of the Longhua complex. In 2010, 18 suicide attempts were reported. Survivors and the suicide notes described the stress, long working hours and bad treatment by managers they experienced in the workplace. As a response, CEO of Foxconn, Terry Gou, installed large safety nets outside the buildings and counselors were hired.

Journalist Brian Merchant, who wrote a book about ‘the secret history of the iPhone’, describes in one chapter how he managed to enter the highly secured and secretive Longhua complex in Shenshen, China. He was able to interview Foxconn workers, who indicate that not much has changed since the media attention on the suicides. One of them says: “It wouldn’t be Foxconn without people dying. Every year, people kill themselves, it is a normal thing.”

Read the full chapter here.