By Li Qian | 2012-9-6 | NEWSPAPER EDITION
THOUSANDS of students in an east China city are being forced to work at a Foxconn plant after classes were suspended at the beginning of the new semester, it has been revealed.
Students from Huai'an in Jiangsu Province were driven to a factory in the city run by Taiwan's Foxconn Technology Company after the plant couldn't find sufficient workers for the production of Apple's much-anticipated iPhone 5, they said in online posts.
A student majoring in computing at the Huaiyin Institute of Technology said 200 students from her school had been driven to the factory.
They started work on the production line last Thursday and were being paid 1,550 yuan (US$243.97) a month for working six days a week, she said.
But they had to pay hundreds of yuan for food and accommodation, she said in an online post under the name of mengniuIQ84.
Several other students from at least five colleges backed up what she said, saying they were being forced to work for 12 hours a day.
A Jiangsu Institute of Finance and Economy student called Youyoyu said students from departments of law, English and management were all working at the plant.
A Huai'an University student posting under the name of Dalingzhuimengnan said Foxconn was badly in need of 10,000 workers but students were looking forward to returning to classrooms to continue their academic studies which had been seriously disrupted.
MengniuIQ84 wrote that the authorities had ordered the schools to send students to assist Foxconn but said that the factory neither informed parents nor signed agreements with students.
One or two schools had canceled their internship programs with Foxcon after media exposure and pressure from the public, she said, but her institute had no plans to do so and had even punished students who had tried to leave the factory.
Fear of revenge
Yu Fangqiang, executive director of Nanjing-based Tianxiagong, a non-government organization focusing on policy advocacy regarding social issues, said he wanted to help students take legal action against their schools.
But some refused for fear of schools taking revenge by not allowing them to graduate, he said.
According to a China National Radio report, teachers from local schools admitted suspending routine classes over the next one or two months. They said the internships were a compulsory course for students to "experience working conditions and promote individual ability," the report said.
The Huai'an Education Bureau said they were aware such programs ran during the summer break but did not know that schools had continued them into the new semester.
An official, who refused to be named, said it was a common practice to send students to renowned companies and factories, something that served the enterprises and expanded students' horizons, he said.
"It's hard for students to find jobs which are precisely related to their majors. Therefore, they are encouraged to go to factories to learn more about society," he said.
However, Wu Dong, a lawyer, said the practice violated higher education laws and labor laws and the schools, education and labor rights authorities and Foxconn could be sued.