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Apple 'Independently Evaluating' Foxconn's Response to Suicides at Manufacturing Plant

Bloomberg reports that Apple has made its first public statement since a series of suicides at manufacturing partner Foxconn's sprawling manufacturing facility in China began gaining public notice, expressing sadness at the events and promising that it is "independently evaluating" Foxconn's response while also continuing its facility inspections summarized in its annual supplier responsibility progress report.

"We're in direct contact with Foxconn senior management and we believe they are taking this matter very seriously," said Steve Dowling, an Apple spokesman. "A team from Apple is independently evaluating the steps they are taking to address these tragic events and we will continue our ongoing inspections of the facilities where our products are made."

Apple is "saddened and upset by the recent suicides at Foxconn," he said.

Foxconn, also known as Hon Hai, has been a key manufacturing partner for Apple for many years and notably produces the company's iPhone and iPad models for worldwide distribution.

According to today's report, there have been nine suicides and two attempted suicides at Foxconn's Chinese facility so far this year. The events come after Foxconn received considerable publicity last year when an employee who reportedly lost a next-generation prototype iPhone also committed suicide.

Foxconn's manufacturing complex in Longhua, China reportedly employs approximately 400,000 people, leading some observers to suggest that the number of suicides experienced at the facility this year is not out of the ordinary considering suicide rates in the general population in that country. Still, general concern over quality of life issues for employees who live and work at Foxconn's facility, as well as for other companies in other locations in China, has led to an outcry over whether companies are treating their employees in an ethical manner.

For its part, Foxconn denies that its facilities should be classified as sweatshops and notes that it has hired dozens of counselors and established other resources to assist its employees. The company has also moved to open its factory to the media in an attempt to provide a glimpse into working conditions on its assembly lines.