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7 Jan 2021

Eva Dou, Washington Post (USA)

China: Death of tech firm Pinduoduo's worker sparks online fury over working hours; authorities investigate

"Death of Chinese tech worker fuels anger over brutal hours", 5 January 2021

The employee, named Fei, collapsed in the wee hours of Dec. 29 after a long shift working at online deals giant Pinduoduo, the company said. She died after six hours of first-aid treatment.

Though the cause of death hasn’t been confirmed, Fei’s fate has reignited scrutiny of brutal work schedules and vast ­inequities in the Chinese tech industry, whose power and wealth are attracting growing public criticism and pushback from regulators. Online discussions about Fei’s death racked up hundreds of millions of views this week, while Shanghai labor regulators told local media they had sent a team to investigate Pinduoduo’s labor contracts and work hours.

Fueling the public anger, a Pinduoduo social media account originally said grass-roots employees faced a “trade-off of life for money,” a statement the company later denounced as an unauthorized opinion of an outsourced marketing worker.

“We are heartbroken by Fei’s death and feel deeply for her family,” Pinduoduo later said in a statement, using the employee’s first name. “She was popular among her peers and valued by her colleagues. Our team has been accompanying the family all this time and providing every assistance that her family needs.”

Reached by phone, a staff member of the labor protection department of Shanghai’s Changning district said officials were investigating the case but could not release any details at this stage. [...]

Part of the following stories

China: Technology workers protest online against overtime work culture, access to the webpage reportedly blocked by some domestic browsers

Pinduoduo worker's death sparks online fury over long working hours