where they make transactions with beauty." -Rumi
Xu Lizhi submitted job applications to the Central Book Mall in Shenzhen,, a city in China's Guangdong Province. His love of literature lead him to dream of one day being a librarian. Unfortunately, he wasn't qualified for the position. He was also turned down for an assignment as librarian at Foxconn's internal library for employees. Despite his disappointment he continued to work for Foxconn, the company synonymous with a tragic mass of employee suicides between January and November of 2010. The deaths immediately drew media attention due to the number of contracts with American manufacturers such as Apple, HP and Dell. Following investigations by twenty Chinese universities it was determined that Foxconn was essentially a labor camp. Shortly after the studies, Foxconn increased factory employee wages, asked employees to sign "suicide pledges" and even installed special netting outside the building to catch free falling workers jumping to their deaths. Workers were forced to sign a legally binding document stating their families wouldn't sue the company if the employee self- injured or committed suicide. Xu Lizhi, an avid writer of essays, commentaries and poetry endured the soul numbing factory drudgery as long as he could. Hoping to sustain his desire to be creative, in his brief two-year tenure as a production line worker at Foxconn, Xu published more than 30 articles for their in-house magazine Foxconn People.
On the 30 th of September 2014, at the age of twenty-four he took his own life. Following his death, his friends submitted his poetry to a Shenzhen newspaper. His poems have recently surfaced in newspapers worldwide as well as in online articles garnering much deserved praise for their vivid depiction of the spirit crushing, meaningless labor mercilessly imposed upon workers trying to survive. https://libcom.org/blog/xulizhi-foxconn-suicide-poetry
Poet E.E. Cummings once penned, "Unbeing dead isn't being alive." Where were the psychologists, counselors and health care advocates at Foxconn? Who was standing up for the workers? Human beings were not meant to perform as emotionless, unthinking, unfeeling machines. There are billions of people in the world who are forced into labor or slave camp conditions due to one thing and one thing only- greed. Do the multi-million dollar corporations who so callously profit from slowly stealing a workers humanity have one ounce of empathy? We need to question. We need to find answers.We need to speak out for those who may be too afraid to speak or for those who can only speak to us with the words they leave behind.
Below is a poem written December 2011, by Xu Lizhi, "The Last Graveyard"
Even the machine is nodding off
Sealed workshops store diseased iron
Wages concealed behind curtains
Like the love that young workers bury at the bottom of their hearts
With no time for expression, emotion crumbles into dust
They have stomachs forged of iron
Full of thick acid, sulfuric and nitric
Industry captures their tears before they have the chance to fall
Time flows by, their heads lost in fog
Output weighs down their age, pain works overtime day and night
In their lives, dizziness before their time is latent
The jig forces the skin to peel
And while it's at it, plates on a layer of aluminum alloy
Some still endure, while others are taken by illness
I am dozing between them, guarding
The last graveyard of our youth.