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'iPhone Girl' spooked by the attention

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By now you have probably heard of "The iPhone Girl," the cute Chinese factory worker  flashing the peace sign, whose picture was found on one man's iPhone. Her picture was taken by a worker at the Foxconn factory where the iPhone is made and left on the phone, which wound up in the hands of a British customer. He then posted the pictures on MacRumors.

Since her photo was first posted on the Web, there has been a flood of interest in her. Who she is, is she all right? China's Southern Metropolitan Daily named her "China's prettiest factory girl." There is even a blog dedicated to her, although it has branched out a bit.

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Well, don't hold your breath for a Maxim layout any time soon, she's not interested in the attention. A Foxconn representative told the South China Morning Post that she is a little freaked out by all the attention.

"She is just a young girl who has come to the city from her remote hometown. She is never been in such a situation," said the rep. "She is really scared by the media. She told me she wanted to quit her job and go back home to get away from this. We let her off work today so she could rest."

Foxconn has said more than once that her job is not at risk and has called the incident a "beautiful mistake." The elephant in the room, though, is no one believes it. The bad taste joke at some recent trade shows I attended was people thought she was actually in physical danger.

Joking aside, what no one in the press seems willing to say is it is a genuine concern. In conversations as well as e-mail and IM exchanges, more than a few people have expressed real concern for her. After all, this is China we're talking about. In the period of the just-passed Olympics, the government:

  • Put dissidents under house arrest.
  • Arrested pro-Tibet supporters.
  • More than once.
  • Ordered Christian churches closed during the games
  • Greatly increased the number of arrests during the games.
  • Blocked Internet access for all reporters.
  • Blocked access to iTunes when a pro-Tibet album came out.

If the government will behave like that while the whole planet is watching, what in the world would they do to one anonymous factory worker? China wanted the Olympics to be a chance to change its global image when the opposite happened. It lived up to its reputation as a repressive police state. So yes, people were curious about her, and they were also worried about her because of the Chinese government's well-earned bad reputation.

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