Foxconn's pollutional activities in Taiyuan, Shanxi, China

Residents of the Hengda Oasis community in Taiyuan, Shanxi are exposed to toxic gases emitted by the Foxconn factory, a manufacturer for global brands such as Apple. Their protest against the factory in 2011 included roadblocks.


Description
Foxconn is the largest electronics manufacturer worldwide. Contracted by the most significant global brands, such as Apple, Intel, Amazon and Sony to name but a few, the company is estimated to manufacture around 40% of all consumer electronics worldwide [1].

It was not until a series of worker suicides in 2010 that the company came into the spotlight for its atrocious working conditions. Low wages and illegal working conditions have been lamented by workers and labour activists alike [2]. It has since been under scrutiny by environmental groups that focus on pollutional activities in the supply chain of Apple. In their second report from 2011 on the matter, a coalition of 5 influential Chinese ENGOs presented their findings from on-site investigations [4].

The Foxconn plant in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, is one of 12 factories in China known for being key manufacturers of Apple‘s iPhone and iPad series as well as some key accessories. By the summer of 2011, residents of the nearby Hengda Lvzhou Apartments complex had started noticing a strange smell. The stench, which they had first believed to be coming from the sewer system, eventually became unbearable. More complaints of coughs, headaches and stomach problems had the residents pointing their finger directly to the close-by Foxconn factory. Concerned residents had put their hopes into the investigation campaign against Apple expecting that the pressure put upon the company would move both the manufacturer and the government to act accordingly and improve the situation. Not only were they worried about their health, but also about their newly acquired homes in the Hengda Lvzhou Apartments complex. However, the situation deteriorated when visible health problems, such as breathing difficulties and stomach irritations, increased [6].

As early as 2009, local residents had started reacting online to the pollution problems of the factory. Local authorities reacted slowly but, by August 8th, 2010, the website of the Environmental Protection Bureau (EPB) of Shanxi Province listed Foxconn in their section Environmental Administrative Penalty --> List of Companies with Supervision --> Environmental Problems” publishing the ‘Investigative Report into the handling of the Environmental Petitions to Foxconn Technology Co., Ltd. regarding Emissions Pollution.” [5]. According to the document, the EPB of Taiyuan made several demands to the company, calling for the monitoring of pollutants and upgrading the facilities. According to a 2010 investigation by the provincial EPB, odours were coming out of the coating workshop and from oil mist created by equipment in the machinery workshop of the Foxconn factory. The Taiyuan EPB expanded the list of environmental pollutants caused by the factory in 2011. The irritant gases were caused by fumes from the coating workshop, odours from the waste-water treatment equipment, oil mist from the machinery workshop and dust from the recycling workshop [3][8].

On August 6th 2011 residents showed their anger about authorities at the local, city, provincial and national level that had not reacted to further countless phone calls: by blocking the road with their cars in front of the factory, around 100 residents attracted the attention of the provincial government. Following the protest, local authorities got in contact with Foxconn and organised several visits for the residents to the factory. Even though channels of communication between Foxconn and the residents had been opened and the company had promised to improve, residents’ complaints did not cease. Having lost their trust in the determination of public officials and institutions, the residents still insist that the only positive outcome would be for Foxconn to leave [5].

A massive brawl of approximately 2000 workers in 2012 lead to a temporary closure of the factory. Even though the company is in denial, workers report that the incident was sparked by the violent treatment of security guards towards workers. Following an intervention including some 5000 policemen, 40 individuals had to be taken to the hospital [7][9].
Basic Data
NameFoxconn's pollutional activities in Taiyuan, Shanxi, China
CountryChina
ProvinceShanxi
SiteTaiyuan
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Manufacturing activities
Water treatment and access to sanitation (access to sewage)
Specific Commoditieselectronics
E-waste
Manufactured Products
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe completion of the Foxconn factury in Taiyuan cost 4,4bn CNY, and gives work to more than 65,000 people [2].

Around 2000 residents inhabit the affected Hengda Oasis community, opposite the Foxconn factory. [7]
Project Area (in hectares)305
Level of Investment (in USD)ca. 656,638,000.00
Type of PopulationUrban
Potential Affected Population2,000
Start Date01/09/2009
Company Names or State EnterprisesFoxconn Technology Group 富士康科技集团 from Taiwan
Relevant government actorsEnvironmental Protection Bureau of Shanxi Province

Environmental Protection Bureau of Taiyuan City
Environmental justice organisations and other supporters-Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs (公众环境研究中心, wwwen.ipe.org.cn)

-Friends of Nature (自然之友, www.fon.org.cn)

-Green Beagle Environmental Institute (达尔问环境研究所,www.bjep.org.cn)

-Green Stone Environmental Action Network (绿石环境保护中心,www.green-stone.org)

-Huanyou Science and Technology Research Center(环友科技,http://www.huanyoukeji.com/)
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingIndustrial workers
Local ejos
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Potential: Soil contamination
Health ImpactsVisible: Other Health impacts
Potential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Occupational disease and accidents
OtherWorkers committed suicide
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/sense of place
Outcome
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseViolent targeting of activists
Fostering a culture of peace
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Workers report that the brawl was sparked by the violent treatment of security guards towards workers
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.Residents are still complaining about pollution caused by the factory. According to local physicians, a large number of residents are suffering from environmental health issues that remain unaddressed. [5]
Sources and Materials
References

[3] "The other side of Apple II" Research report by Chinese environmental organizations digging Apple’s China supply chain, listing additional suppliers in violation of Chinese environmental standards. (accessed on 07.02.2019)
[click to view]

[5] "China And The Environment: The Green Revolution", Sam Geall (Ed); Zed Books, 2013
[click to view]

First report from 2010: "The Other Side of Apple" (accessed on 07.02.2019)
[click to view]

A 2010 Study by ENGOs about the Heavy Metal Pollution by the IT Brand Supply Chain (accessed on 07.02.2019)
[click to view]

Links

[1] New York Times: "How the US lost out on iPhone Work" (accessed on 07.02.2019)
[click to view]

[6] Article on chinadialogue.net: "Living with Foxonn" (accessed on 07.02.2019)
[click to view]

[4] Article on chinadialogue.net: "Apple: back under the spotlight" (accessed on 07.02.2019)
[click to view]

[2] New York Times: "After Suicides, Scrutiny of China’s Grim Factories" (accessed on 07.02.2019)
[click to view]

[7]bbc.com: "Foxconn halts production at plant after mass brawl"(accessed on 13.02.2019)
[click to view]

[8] yifeng.com: "富士康再陷苹果污染门 遭居民多次投诉空气污染" (Foxconn relapses in Apples pollution gate, following residents repeated complaints about air pollution)

(accessed on 13.02.2019)
[click to view]

Media Links

The Other Side of Apple II: Pollution Spreads through China's Water Supply Chain
[click to view]

[7] Presentation about the case, published by Xueli Zhang for the Wilson Center.
[click to view]

[9] Taiwan TV-Station: "富士康太原廠千名員工暴動 公安武警千人鎮壓" (Foxconn Taiyuan factory thousand employees riots Public security armed police thousands of people suppressed) (accessed: 13.02.2019)
[click to view]

[10] Online forum discussion on Tianya about the pollution of Foxconn in Taiyuan, including pictures made by residents
[click to view]

Other Documents

Position of the Hengda Oasis community in proximity to the Foxconn factory Source: http://wwwen.ipe.org.cn/reports/report_1746.html
[click to view]

Picture of the Foxconn factory emitting gases, taken by a resident of the neighbouring community Source: http://bbs.tianya.cn/post-269-13182-1.shtml
[click to view]

A protest T-shirt urging local residents to fight Foxconn's pollution. Picture by Meng Si. Source: https://www.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/4921-Living-with-Foxconn
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorEnvJustice, ICTA-UAB/LUX 2019
Last update19/02/2019
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