Chengdu authorities seal off Foxconn factory after explosion kills three

Police in Chengdu have sealed off the hi-tech industrial park in Chengdu that was rocked by an explosion at the Hongfujin Precision Electronics plant, owned by Foxconn, on 20 May.

Initial reports suggest that the explosion, which killed at least three workers and injured 15 others, was caused by the build-up of combustible dust in a polishing workshop. However, information about the explosion and the victims has been limited due to tight restrictions on access to the plant.

Relatives seeking information about the status of employees were turned away empty-handed, and the Global Times reported that police had confiscated and smashed a camera belonging to a journalist with the official Xinhua news agency who was attempting to report on the incident.

The reaction of the local authorities to the explosion reflects their extreme sensitivity to any negative publicity regarding their most lucrative and high-profile inward investment in recent years. The establishment of the Foxconn facility in Chengdu producing iPads and iPhones for Apple was seen as exemplifying the inland migration of factories away from the high-cost coastal areas of China, and was trumpeted by the Chengdu government as an example of the city’s transformation into a hi-tech manufacturing hub.

Commentators have criticised the authorities for attempting to shield Foxconn from the glare of the media, a favour that would certainly not be granted to smaller lesser known companies. It is quite common for enterprise managers and coal mine owners to be taken into police custody after an accident of this magnitude, but this does not appear to be the case with Foxconn.

Mao Shoulong, a professor of public policy at Renmin University in Beijing, told the Global Times that the authorities had an obligation to the families of the workers to publish as much information as quickly as possible, as well as a duty to conduct a thorough an investigation as possible in order to prevent a similar tragedy in the future.
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