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'Robbed of dignity' and half his brain: Zhang's Foxconn nightmare

via Sydney Morning Herald | Oct. 17, 2012
Apple's largest contract manufacturer has been pushing for a Chinese worker left brain-damaged in a factory accident to be removed from hospital in a case that throws a harsh new spotlight on labour rights in China.

Apple's largest contract manufacturer has been pushing for a Chinese worker left brain-damaged in a factory accident to be removed from hospital in a case that throws a harsh new spotlight on labour rights in China.

Zhang Tingzhen, 26, an employee of Taiwanese company Foxconn, had nearly half his brain surgically removed after surviving an electric shock at a factory in southern China a year ago. He remains in hospital under close observation by doctors, unable to speak or walk properly.l

You cannot imagine the suffering they put me through, how I had to fight every inch of the way just to get money so we can take care of our son 

Zhang's father

However, Foxconn, which is paying Zhang's hospital bills, has been sending telephone text messages to his family since July, demanding they remove him from hospital and threatening to cut off funding for his treatment - a move the company says would be justified under Chinese labour law.

Zhang Tingzhen is given a doll to play with by his mother Wei Xiuying while sitting beside his father Zhang Guangde at a Shenzhen hospital in southern China

Zhang Tingzhen is given a doll to play with by his mother Wei Xiuying while sitting beside his father Zhang Guangde at a Shenzhen hospital in southern China Photo: Reuters

Foxconn confirmed it had sent the messages, saying that under Chinese law the worker must submit to a disability assessment - a process that in Zhang's case would require him to be discharged from the Shenzhen hospital and travel 70 kilometres to Huizhou, where he was first hired by Foxconn.

The company said in response to emailed questions that it would be prepared to return Zhang to the Shenzhen hospital after the assessment, though his father said Zhang was unfit to travel and that doctors felt he remained at risk of a brain haemorrhage.

The case has raised fresh questions over the labour record of Foxconn, one of the biggest and most high-profile private employers in China, after a series of well-publicised suicides among its army of around a million workers and recent outbursts of labour unrest.

It has angered labour activists who say Zhang's plight also highlights China's patchy and sometimes precarious welfare system for workers seriously injured in industrial accidents - and point out that there are many workers worse off than Zhang.

 

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