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Tuesday, July 21, 2009, 08:40 am PT (11:40 am ET)

Worker commits suicide after 4G iPhone prototype goes missing - reports

A 25-year-old man reportedly committed suicide after an iPhone prototype he was responsible for went missing, leading to alleged "unbearable interrogation techniques" in the ensuing investigation, according to a Chinese publication.

As first reported by ND Daily, the man, Sun Danyong, reportedly had his property seized and was held in solitary confinement after one of 16 prototype iPhones he was responsible for went missing. The man jumped from a 12-story building last week.

As translated by Shanghaiist, the man told his friends before his death that the security guards with Foxconn, the iPhone manufacturing company, had laid hands on him. Chinese media reported that the missing device was a new "4G" iPhone.

In the wake of the incident, officials from Foxconn issued a statement that included an apology. According to Shanghaiist, the section chief of the Central Security division "may have used 'inappropriate interrogation methods' such as searching Sun's house, holding Sun in solitary confinement and possibly beatings." In addition, a Foxconn spokesperson reportedly said the incident is an example of the company's "internal management deficiencies."

Though the section chief has been suspended without pay, security officers who worked with him said it was unlikely that Sun was beaten.

Some, such as DigitalBeat, have taken to citing the incident as an example of the impact of Apple's secretive nature. They conclude that there is great pressure on Foxconn to keep Apple's secrets in order to retain their manufacturing contract.

"(Apple) uses the element of surprise to help build up excitement for its flashy product launches, helping to drive sales and its stock price higher," Eric Eldon writes. "In order to make that happen, Apple exerts immense pressure on its business partners help it maintain secrecy. The missing phone, some sort of new iPhone, has so far been nothing more than speculation among gadget sites."

It's another story of trouble from China for Apple. Just last week, the company's foreign factories came under fire, as a new investigation found that 45 of the 83 factories that built iPhones and iPods in 2008 weren't paying valid overtime rates, and 23 weren't even paying some of their workers China's minimum wage.

Tuesday afternoon, Apple issued a response on the matter to CNet.

"We are saddened by the tragic loss of this young employee and we are awaiting results of the investigations into his death," Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet said. "We require our suppliers to treat all workers with dignity and respect."