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The Intern Factory

Looking for college credit? Don't go to Foxconn.

In June 2010, a university student named Liu Jiang arrived in the southern Chinese city of Foshan to begin his summer internship, at a factory that produces LCD screens for laptops and cell phones for the manufacturing giant Foxconn. As a student at the Dongfang Vocational School of Technology in the northern city of Shijiazhuang, Liu had traveled hundreds of miles for a chance to get hands-on experience working for China’s leading electronics maker.


But his internship was brief. Less than a month later, in the early morning of July 18, the eighteen-year-old would climb to the roof of his six-story dormitory and leap to his death.

Liu quickly became a statistic in Foxconn’s ugly worker history, a blip on the Internet radar: his was the seventeenth suicide attempt, and the thirteenth death, at a Foxconn factory that year alone. Apart from his school, few details emerged about his life or the conditions of his particular internship, a gig that landed him among other full-time workers his age and younger. Some of his colleagues would say he had just begun his internship; in a statement, Foxconn would say that he had recently been dismissed from his job for delinquency.

But in light of a series of reports that have emerged in the years since, Liu’s suicide points at one of the under-reported but more unsavory aspects of the much-criticized labor practices that produce gadgets for Apple and many other popular computer brands: with the help of schools and government officials, the company runs a massive internship program built not on voluntary education but on “compelled” factory work for teenage students. According to Ross Perlin, author of Intern Nation, Foxconn may be running “the world’s single largest internship program—and one of the most exploitative.”

Read the rest at Motherboard