On the last day of September, a 24-year-old migrant worker in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen killed himself. Xu Lizhi jumped out of a window of a residential dormitory run by his employer, Foxconn, the huge electronics manufacturing company with a million-strong workforce that makes the majority of the world’s Apple iPhones.
In most cases, Xu’s suicide would have been yet another footnote in the vast, sweeping story of China’s economic boom and transformation. He is one of a legion of young Chinese migrants who emerge out of rural obscurity to find work in China’s teeming cities, only to end up crushed by both the dullness and stress of factory jobs, insufficient wages and a steady accumulation of personal disappointments.
But Xu was a poet. And, after his death, his friends collected his work and got some published in a local Shenzhen newspaper.