Chinese Internet Users Indignant at Another Young Karoshi

  • 22-year-old female worked to death in Pinduoduo.
  • Internet users find Pinduoduo's announcement full of lies.
  • Chinese people wish the government to curb the overwork trend.

Right before the new year, on December 29, Zhang didn’t leave work until 01:30 a.m. While walking home with her colleagues, she suddenly fainted. Even though she was immediately sent to a local hospital in Urumchi, she still passed away six hours later.

The tragedy had been circulating unperceivably on the internet, until it trended on January 3. One day later, on Zhihu, people started to spread a screenshot of a post by the official account of tech giant Pinduoduo:

The controversial ghost post by Pinduoduo on Zhihu.

“Look at those people in the bottom of the society. Who isn’t exchanging his life for money? I’ve never considered it a problem of capitalism, but that of the society. This is an era of extreme hard work. You can choose to be chill, but you have to bear its consequences. Human beings can control their efforts, we all can.”

The post was deleted 28 seconds after its publication.

No room for more silence. Pinduoduo finally released an official announcement on January 4, claiming that Zhang has already been cremated, and that Zhang’s parents have pleaded for the company to hide the news from the public. They denied the authenticity of the screenshot of that Zhihu post and said that they’re firmly against the opinions expressed in it.

Zhihu confirmed the existence of the post.

However, internet users are clearly not buying it. More and more technical posts appear on Zhihu analyzing if the screenshot has been photoshopped. And the answer is negative.

More interestingly, the official account of Zhihu itself has commented. Zhihu has confirmed that Pinduoduo’s official account on Zhihu published and deleted that post. This short comment of Zhihu has gained over 66,000 upvotes in just one hour, and still counting fast.

Zhang’s parents thanked Pinduoduo and asked it to be quiet.

Internet users suspect Zhang’s parents told Pinduoduo to hide the news. In Pinduoduo’s announcement, the only proof is a screenshot of Zhang’s parents’ Wechat Moments. In this Moments post, Zhang’s father thanked Pinduoduo for accompanying them and pleaded for people to be quiet about Zhang’s death. But details in that screenshot suggests that Zhang’s parents might have been asked to publish that Moments post by Pinduoduo.

Zhang, born in 1998, joined Pinduoduo in July 2019. Following the recent controversial craze of community group buying (CGB), she was transferred to a CGB department a few months before her death. Since Pinduoduo was a bit late in the game compared with other Chinese tech giants, employees are required to work much more than usual. According to informants, Pinduoduo employees currently work 6 days a week, and most days more than 12 hours.

Most scary, this is a common working schedule in many Chinese tech companies and they’re not hiding it, even though it’s obviously against the law. There have been several similar tragedies similar Zhang’s over the years, but the Chinese government hasn’t been very responsive. Some internet users wish this case could be the trigger for the government to rectify the situation. Sadly, as some posts say, they might be disappointed, again.

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