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Foxconn polishing plants in China closed after blast
by Staff Writers
Taipei (AFP) May 24, 2011


China has over 900 million mobile phone users
Beijing (AFP) May 24, 2011 - China had more than 900 million mobile phone subscribers at the end of April with nearly two-thirds of the world's most populous nation using cellular technology, the government said Tuesday.

The nation's army of mobile phone users grew by over 41 million in the first quarter of 2011, bringing the total number of cell phone subscribers to 900.39 million, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said.

Mobile phone use has exploded in China in recent years as handset prices and user charges have dropped, while the continual arrival of new technologies on the market has spurred sales.

According to government figures, China had 565 million mobile phone subscribers in February 2009.

In the first quarter of 2011, China's telecommunication industry reported a 9.4 percent growth year-on-year on business revenue valued at 308.36 billion yuan ($47.44 billion), the ministry said.

As of the end of April, third generation (3G) mobile telecommunication users in China reached 67.57 million, nearly 21 million more than at the end of 2010.

Last week, the ministry announced the number of Internet users in China, already the world's largest online market, hit 477 million at the end of March.

The number of people using the Internet in China had hit 457 million at the end of 2010, meaning that more than one-third of its 1.3 billion-strong population were online.

Taiwan tech giant Foxconn said Tuesday all its workshops that polish electronic parts and products in China had been shut down for inspection after a deadly explosion at a plant last week.

The firm said three workers died and 15 others were hurt in Friday's explosion at the Hongfujin Precision Electronics workshop in southwest China, which assembles Apple's popular iPad 2.

The news led analysts to warn that production of the tablet could be slashed by half a million if the stoppage goes on for too long.

"The cause of this tragic accident is still being investigated by a joint investigation task force led by government officials and law enforcement authorities," spokesman Edmund Ding said in the statement.

He added that "all operations at the affected workshop remain suspended and production at all other workshops that carry out similar processing functions have also been halted pending the results of the investigation".

Initial findings showed that the accident may have been caused by an explosion of combustible dust in a duct, he said.

Research firm IHS ISuppli said with monthly production of iPad 2 at the plant in Chengdu, southwest China, amounting to 500,000 units, a shutdown until the end of June would seriously impact output, according to Dow Jones Newswires.

Shares in Hon Hai Precision, the parent company of Foxconn, fell 2.91 percent Monday but rebounded 3.0 percent Tuesday.

"The unexpected accident's negative impacts on the operation of Foxconn should be limited," Kuo Ming-chi of the Concord Securities told AFP.

He added that up to 70 percent of iPads are manufactured at Foxconn's plants in southern China.

It is the latest incident to hit embattled Foxconn, after at least 13 of its employees died in apparent suicides last year, which activists blamed on tough working conditions.

Foxconn employs about one million workers in China, about half of them based in its main facility in the southern city of Shenzhen.

Foxconn has been expanding its workforce in other parts of China as it seeks to scale back the size of its Shenzhen plant.

The firm opened the $2 billion Chengdu plant in October, according to China's state-run Xinhua news agency.

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