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Family of brain-damaged worker takes Foxconn to court in China

By Tan Ee Lyn

HONG KONG (Reuters) - The father of a Foxconn worker left brain-damaged by a factory accident in southern China took the company to court on Tuesday, in a case that heaps more attention on the labor practices of Apple Inc's largest contract manufacturer.

The case involves Zhang Tingzhen, a 26-year-old engineer who had nearly half his brain surgically removed after surviving an electric shock a year ago.

His plight came to light after Reuters reported that Taiwan firm Foxconn sent telephone text messages to his family telling them it would cut off funding for his treatment and other expenses if they did not remove him from hospital in Shenzhen city and submit him for a disability assessment 70 km (43 miles) away in Huizhou, where the company says he was hired.

But his father, Zhang Guangde, is contesting that and says his son was hired in Shenzhen, not Huizhou, where wages and compensation levels are substantially lower than in Shenzhen.

A lawyer representing Zhang's family told Reuters after a three-hour court hearing that they furnished evidence showing that Zhang was hired in Shenzhen.

"Our evidence includes hospital correspondences, notice of hospitalization, factory salary slips, colleague declarations, they all point to the time and place of his injury and his employment being in Shenzhen," said lawyer Zhang Xiaotan.

No comment was immediately available from Foxconn.

Labor activists say Zhang's case highlights a common practice among large companies in China, which sign work contracts with employees in inner Chinese cities, where wages and compensations levels are relatively low, and then deploy them to work in more expensive cities.

Doctors removed half Zhang's brain to keep him alive and he remains in hospital under close observation, unable to speak or walk properly.

His case has raised fresh questions over the labor practices of Foxconn, one of the biggest and most high-profile private employers in China, after a series of suicides among its workforce of about 1 million and recent labor unrest. (Editing by Robert Birsel)

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