Apple supplier refutes claim of suicide at China factory

The victim's family claims worker commited suicide after being denied personal leave to attend a family reunion

Apple supplier Foxlink, a maker of iPhone cable connectors, disputed claims on Friday that a company worker committed suicide after being denied a leave of absence, instead suggesting that drug use may have played a role in the worker's death.

On Sept. 29, the worker, He Cheng, fell to his death from a Foxlink factory building located in the Chinese city of Dongguan. The victim's family claim the death was a suicide, brought on by the factory management refusing to give the worker three days of personal leave to attend a family reunion.

Taiwan-based Foxlink, however, said the cause of death was still unknown, and refuted reports that the company had denied giving the worker personal leave while threatening to cut his pay.

"Because the employee Mr. He was suspected of using psychotropic drugs over the long-term, the cause of death is currently under investigation by the police," according to a statement from Foxlink's Fugang Electronics, which operates the factory.

The company further added that it was "regrettable" family members had come away misunderstanding the situation due to their pain over He's death.

Last week, family members demonstrated outside the Foxlink factory in China, displaying a banner that alleged the company had killed He, and demanded compensation of up to 1.2 million yuan (US$190,017). A video of the protest was posted online, but police were quick to detain the family, said He's sister, who added that Foxlink was only willing to pay 40,000 yuan to 50,000 yuan in compensation.

A cousin of He said on Friday that the dispute with Foxlink had been settled, but declined to give details. When asked about Foxlink's claim that He could have been using drugs, the cousin replied, "It's not important. We have been facing this painful ordeal, but now we've reached an agreement with the company."

He, who had already been ill before his death, had been working 14 hours to 15 hours a day at the factory, said his sister in a previous interview. Company management had refused to give him the personal leave, due to high demand for iPhone 5 accessories, she added.

Foxlink is led by the brother of Terry Guo, the CEO of Foxconn, another major supplier of Apple that saw a string of worker suicides occur at company factories in China in 2010. In response to He's suicide, Foxlink's Fugang Electronics said it would improve measures to take care of its workers' health.

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