Public Backlash Against China’s 3rd Largest E-Retailer Pinduoduo Over Exploitative Work Culture

There is intense backlash by the public in China against one of the prominent e-commerce companies of the country over charges that the firm exploits its employees by overworking them. This reflects the broadening of the scrutiny of the top tech companies of the country and could even become even more intense.

Two employees of the e-commerce firm Pinduoduo recently unexpectedly died during the holiday season which drew a lot of criticism and public outrage. Pinduoduo is the third largest e-commerce firm of China after Alibaba and JD.com.

During the early hours of December 29, a woman worker only in her twenties just collapsed and dies while walking home with colleagues in Urumqi, the capital city of the Xinjiang region. While confirming the death, the company said nothing about the cause of death.

And last week, another employee of the company passed away after jumping from his 27-floor apartment in the southern Hunan province in the city of Changsha. According to a company statement, the employee had previously asked for leave without giving any reasons.

“We feel profound sadness that we lost one of our employees to suicide,” the company said in the statement. “We are doing everything we can to support his family and loved ones during this difficult time.”

The deaths have been described by users of Chinese social media as being a reflection of the cruel work culture at Pinduoduo. Later on the awareness of the problem was catapulted to new highs by a former software engineer at the company.

The engineer Wang Taixu, claimed in a video published Sunday on Weibo that he was fired by the company after he had posted a puctire which he claimed was of an ambulance taking another employee of the company to the hospital. The video garnered millions of likes and thousands of comments.

“I don’t think the world should work this way,” Wang said in the video. According to the former engineer of Pinduoduo, the company was one that “forces the smartest people in the country to work” for long hours. He also said he was disappointed about the stocks of the company trading at record levels on Wall Street even after the recent controversies.

Wang’s reasons for his firing were denied by Pinduoduo and saidn in a statement to CNN Business that the termination was because of “extreme comments” made by him on social media with “notable ill intentions,” in violation of the company’s rules.

The company didn’t respond to questions about the allegations made against its work culture. It did say, however, that it has set up a team to provide psychological counseling following the suicide of its worker last week.

The public outrage against Pinduoduo also rekindled a long time debate in China – that of the controversial “996” work culture of the tech industry of the country. The term “996” work culture refers to work culture of employees of tech companies having to work from 9 am to 9 pm for 6 days a week and it is said to be a common feature across the entire tech industry of the country.

This is not the first time that there has been a public backlash against such practices in China’s tech industry. There was severe public criticism of Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma’s comment two years ago in which he said that the 996 work culture was a “huge blessing” for the country’s tech companies.

(Adapted from CNN.com)

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