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Mobile Phone Explosion In China Blamed On Homemade Gun

Initial police reports attributed the man's death to severe arterial bleeding following the explosion of his mobile phone in an electronics store.

Thomas Claburn

February 10, 2009

2 Min Read

Huang Heping, the Chinese man reported to have been killed Jan. 30 when his cell phone exploded, now appears to have been done in by a gun of his own making.

Initial police reports, as conveyed by the Chinese press, attributed the man's death to severe arterial bleeding following the explosion of his mobile phone in an electronics store.

But last week, Richard Spencer, reporting from Beijing for The Telegraph, said police have concluded that the man died as a result of homemade weapon.

Police "say they believe the gun went off accidentally after Huang dropped it, killing him with a single shot to the neck," Spencer writes. "The phone was also broken, leading to the initial theory which came from those first on the scene."

Huang was said to be 20 years old in a Hexun.com report; a more recent report carried on Sohu.com puts his age at 45.

Mobile phone explosions caused by faulty batteries aren't unheard of. The last such widely reported incident occurred on Nov. 29, when, according to Reuters, a South Korean man was killed by an exploding cell phone.

According to Spencer's report in The Telegraph, news that a faulty mobile phone battery might be to blame heightened worries among Chinese citizens about product safety. China is still dealing with the fallout from the tainted milk scandal that rocked the country last year.

Exploding cell phone batteries may not trouble people much longer, however. Last year, scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC in Wurzburg, Germany, said they had found a way to create energy-dense lithium-ion batteries without the use of flammable organic electrolytes.

The Fraunhofer researchers said at the time that they expected it would take three to five years before the technology reaches the public.

The Reuters story attributing a South Korean man's death to an exploding cell phone was subsequently demonstrated to be incorrect. Subsequent reports indicated that one of the victim's colleagues lied about an exploding phone to conceal his role in the man's death.

About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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