Chinese farmer seeks answers from Apple

CHINA - An Tao never thought the way to solve a conflict between his family and Apple, the international technology giant, could become so difficult.

Last summer, An's wife, Ma Ailun, a 23-year-old flight attendant with China Southern Airlines, was electrocuted at home when she picked up her iPhone to answer a call while it was plugged into an electrical outlet.

Apple seemed determined to investigate the case thoroughly at first.

Now, 10 months after the woman's death, the mystery remains. It is not known for sure that the electrical shock was related to the smartphone.

An, 23, a farmer and native of Changji, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, sought contact with the company many times after the incident, looking for an explanation, but he never succeeded, he said.

"The corporation asked me to provide them with the phone, but it had been taken away by police as physical evidence and must be used in legal procedures," said An. "So I'm in a dilemma and becoming more anxious."

"I dialed Apple's client service number again and again, but it was like dropping stones into the sea every time," he said.

To clarify the cause of his wife's death, An traveled to Beijing last week, hoping to meet a high-level employee of the corporation, but he said he was disappointed and annoyed again.

"Employees in Beijing are still brushing me off," he said. "I don't know who has been in charge of the case up to now. Instead, I was just asked to meet with their hired lawyers."

China Daily on Wednesday contacted a lawyer for Apple, surnamed Ye, but she said she would not answer any questions because the information was privileged. Efforts to contact Apple China received no response in the past two days.

An's father-in-law filed a lawsuit against Apple in a Xinjiang court before Spring Festival this year, but An said at that time he preferred to solve the conflict with negotiation.

"As I called Apple, they told me to appeal to the headquarters. After I consulted lawyers, I knew such a foreign-related case would require a great deal of time and money. So I tended to deal with it in a private way," he said.

But now he has given that up. He told China Daily with a trembling voice that he wants to sue the company with his father-in-law, "since the corporation's attitude made me struggle."

In addition, the iPhone's appraisal must be done by a neutral third party, and the cost - about 30,000 yuan ($4,824) - must be borne by Apple, he said.

In July, An was happily preparing for his wedding to Ma, which was set for Aug 18. The two were high school classmates and fell in love about six years ago.

"We got our marriage certificate in that hot summer, but only a week later the tragedy occurred. No one could imagine my sorrow at that time," he said. Pausing a few seconds, An said he could not start a new life if the case is not resolved.