Danwei Noon Report

Apple iPod manufacturer tries to muzzle press in China

Danwei Noon Report is a daily roundup of new and old media coverage about China from Chinese and English sources.

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iPod subcontractor attacks the press
This story contains all the juicy ingredients needed to make Western editors excited about a China story: sweat shops, Apple computer and the iPod, and attacks on the freedom of the press. Nonetheless, it seems that no Western news organizations have yet published anything about it.

The story so far:

June 11
Britain's Daily Mail published story about sweat shop working conditions in Mainland factories run by Taiwanese company Foxconn that produce iPods. The story causes a minor fuss that soon dies down.

June 15
China Business News (第一财经日报) runs a story by Wang You about working conditions at Foxconn plants.

July 10
Foxconn fights back, and fight dirty by asking Shenzhen Intermediate People's Court to freeze all assests belonging to Wang and his editor Weng Bao. The assets include apartments, cars and bank accounts. Note that Foxconn did not sue the newspaper, but went after the journalist and editor personally. In addition to the asset freeze, Foxconn also sued the pair for RMB 30 million ($3.8 million).

July 13
The court starts processes to freeze the assets of the journalists

August 26
The Beijing News runs a story (Chinese) about the case. Bloggers ESWN (1, 2, 3) and Non-violent Resistance (1, 2) start writing about the case in English.

August 29
The Shanghai Daily publishes a report: Journalists sued over iPod story.

Whenever the Chinese government does anything to restrict media, Western newspapers start crowing about clampdowns.

In this case, one of Taiwan's richest companies, a major subcontractor for Apple computer, is using its financial clout and infuence to intimidate Chinese journalists by extremely sketchy legal means, and the Western press is silent.

UPDATE: As reported on ESWN: Western Media Begins FoxConn Coverage


Crazed Chery QQ car fans
Sam Flemming's Word of Mouth blog has a post about online conversations about Chery's QQ car, most of which seem to be highly positive.

What is driving Chery conversations, especially those about Chery QQ? One big element behind all the buzz is a nationalistic pride in one of China's automobile brands already exporting around the world...

... [But] in the end, "value for money" is a big driver for QQ buyers. In China, you can get the car for around US $12,000 with all the same features as more expensive, comparable models, and with decent quality. As one of my Chinese colleagues told me, Chery's cars like the QQ make the "American dream" (his words) of owning a car more attainable. (Link)

Note that General Motors filed a lawsuit against Chery in 2004, alleging that the QQ's design was a copy of the the Matiz model made by GM affiliate Dae Woo in North Korea, and sold in China as the Spark (see China Daily story - link).


Two new laws
China's top legislature on Sunday voted to adopt a new law, trying to enable its lawmakers to better supervise the government. The Supervision Law of the Standing Committees of the People's Congresses at Various Levels will go into effect on January 1, 2007. It seems that the law is intended to provide checks and balances against local governments abusing their power, but the official statement about the law are written in unintelligible Party speak. (Xinhua - link).

Also on Sunday, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress adopted a corporate bankruptcy law, aiming to protect both creditors of bankrupt enterprises and the people who work in them.The law will come into effect on June 1, 2007. (Xinhua - link).


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LG Towers falling.
Woes for the Carnival
In the Chinese press yesterday and the English press today is a report on the worse-than-dismal performance of this year's World Carnival, which closed last weekend after 116 days in Beijing. It had expected to generate 150 million yuan in profit, but with poor attendance bringing in just 11 million yuan, total losses will reach 35 million. Blame is being placed on competition from local amusement parks like Happy Valley as well as a promotioal campaign that failed to convince jaded Beijingers that this year's carnival was any different than the previous two (Shanghai Daily, link).

Today, a Beijing Times report finds that the homepage of the operator, Dubai-based Freij Entertainment, had a Flash-based index file that appears to destroy a major Beijing landmark, the LG Twin Towers outside of Jianguomen. A Freij representative said that the towers had never been in the Flash file before, and that this may be a malicious attack on the company (link - Chinese).

The Freij homepage is currently offline, but you can watch the Flash file here on Danwei, saved out of the Google cache. Click on any region, and then any city, to see the towers come tumbling down.

This report prepared with help from Bill Zhang

There are currently 8 Comments for Apple iPod manufacturer tries to muzzle press in China.

Comments on Apple iPod manufacturer tries to muzzle press in China

China Daily has this story on Page 1 today, and it comes down clearly on the side of the journalists.

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2006-08/29/content_676336.htm

It starts off: "A leading Chinese financial newspaper has said that it is fully behind two of its journalists who have been sued for 30 million yuan...."

It is quite unusual for the paper to be so firmly in support of journalists. I think the difference in this case is that the Shenzhen gov't hasn't actually got itself fully involved, as Foxconn's attempts to intimidate the journalists have no legal basis:

"Yang Baiguo, the newspaper's spokesman, told China Daily that neither of the journalists had received any subpoenas or summons from the court."

And this is because:

"Xu Xun, legal consultant of China National Radio said the Chinese Supreme Court made a ruling in 1993 stating that individual reporters cannot be named as defendants in such lawsuits, and only their news organizations can."

I suspect this story still has a couple of twists in its tale yet though.

The Chinese website Sohu.com also released a feature report on this.

See:http://news.sohu.com/s2006/hhsp/

googling ipod china revealed the original Mail article (the content of which was hardly unbelievable) and a couple of online IT news links:

http://www.cio.com/blog_view.html?CID=22072
http://www.itwire.com.au/content/view/5361/53/

I certainly was relieved to read that Apple has exonerated Foxconn. Apple's report found that employees making iPods were paid at or above "the minimum wage". It was especially comforting to see this, though I am curious what exactly the "minimum wage" is down there in Shenzhen. Maybe Steve Jobs knows.

Baru, if you scroll down the comments following teh sina news,you will find a number of people who identify themselves as "former employees" of foxconn or "insiders" claim that the Apple report was fabricated with the influence of "great foxconn PR".

another observation. there were a few similar cases before and the public sentiment was unanimously on the side the weak and oppressed, just like this one. however, results occasionally turned out to be on the opposite side of the public sentiment and expectation. it's a concern, at least for me, that there are so little diversified and rational voices among the public and professionals in front of similar cases.

Why is it when Apple seeks to defend its interests, it is described as "muzzling the press"?

Apple has the legal right to seek remedy, whether what it had been doing is right or wrong, moral or otherwise. Until the evidence is clearer, none of us should come to a judgement.

And Danwei serves no one by using this headline.

"there are so little diversified and rational voices among the public and professionals in front of" the Ipod case because the public so far hasn't been able to even be exposed to sufficient "evidence". We only heard from the Mail, a member of the not-always-trustworthy Western media club and we heard from dycj, the only chinese media that got access to the factory. Then we heard from Foxconn who denounced the reports. How are we expected to make a judgement based on so limited media coverage. I think now the media has deviated to dwell on the lawsuit but overlooks the original "evidence" -- just how about the conditions over there in the ipod factory? More attempted should be taken to cover the factory conditions and pressure the Foxconn to redress the issue, if it did foul.

Btw, as far as I understand, Dae Woo is not a North Korean business.

i'm more interested in the sheer lack of journalistic integrity that goes into this and other news reports. conversations with anonymous netizens in online chat rooms seem to have become perfectly acceptable news sources. whatever next. news by rumour? oops, we have already reached that stage.

Curious Clarkson--to be sure, no one's accusing Apple here, it's specifically a case involving the company that manufactures iPods for Apple--a significant difference. I don't know much about journalism, but if these reporters have specific evidence supporting their report, isn't the burden to prove otherwise on Foxconn's shoulders? I think that's how it would be in court.

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