The company which makes Apple's iPod media players has persuaded a court to freeze the bank accounts of two journalists who alleged that it mistreated workers in China.
Legal observers have criticised the manufacturer, Foxconn, for attacking the journalists directly, rather than suing the newspaper which published the reports.
Property, cars and bank accounts belonging to a reporter and an editor on the China Business News were frozen by the courts in mid-July after they were sued by Foxconn.
But the journalists chose not to make a public announcement about this while negotiations continued, the newspaper reported yesterday.
A local subsidiary of the manufacturer, Hongfujin Precision Industry Shenzhen, is seeking US$3.8 million in damages from the journalists, a sum equivalent to approximately 800 years' salary for each of them, the newspaper reported.
Foxconn, also known as Hon Hai Precision Industry, is a Taiwan-based contract electronics manufacturer which builds notebook PCs and other consumer electronics products for many well-known brand name vendors, including Apple.
Foxconn makes Sony's PlayStation 2 console, Hewlett Packard PCs and some products in Apple's iPod series. The company reported revenue of US$28 billion last year.
Foxconn appears to have made no public statement about the legal action, and did not respond to vnunet.com's request for comment.
The two journalists wrote articles for the China Business News in mid-June claiming that Foxconn production line staff in southern China were coerced into working excessive overtime.
Workers stood at the assembly line for 12 hours or more a day and only earned US$44 per month, they alleged.
Lawyers and legal scholars told local media that it was customary in such cases for aggrieved firms to sue the publication in which the stories appeared, not the journalists who wrote it. Some have cast doubt on the legality of the action.
After initially remaining quiet on the subject, the China Business News issued an announcement of support for its two staff shortly after they revealed their plight to other journalists.
The paper also announced that it would consider suing Foxconn. However, the paper simultaneously distanced itself from the case, saying that it hoped the journalists and Foxconn could reach a settlement.
The China Business News, sometimes referred to as the First Business Daily, a translation of its Chinese-language name, was launched two years ago.
The paper has advertised its style as driven more by facts than sensationalism, unlike its rivals. According to an editorial statement, it takes the Wall Street Journal's Asian edition as its model.
IPod maker freezes reporters' assets
By Simon Burns on Aug 30, 2006 4:25PM