The death of a 22-year old Pinduoduo Inc. (NASDAQ:PDD) employee last week has sparked an investigation from Chinese authorities into the company. This has also renewed social media discussions regarding the e-commerce giant’s “996” overwork culture.

Death of Pinduoduo employee sparks social media outrage

The company confirmed the death of the employee at Duoduo Miacai its community group buying platform. Pinduoduo indicated that the employee whose surname is Zhang collapsed while she was going home at 1:20 am in the company of a colleague. The 1998 born lady who joined the company in July 2019 died after almost six hours of first aid. The death sparked social media backlash against the e-commerce giant for its relentless work schedule for its employees. This promoted Shanghai Municipal Human resource officials and the Social Security Bureau to institute an investigation against Pinduoduo.

The news of Zhang’s death went viral on Chinese social media platforms with most users attributing her death to overworking owing to the company’s “996” schedule. On Weibo, hashtags regarding Zhang’s death drew over 190 million views and #996 had also been trending on the platform before it was taken down.

Chinese tech giants endorse “996” schedule

The schedule requires employees to work from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. six days a week including overtime. Over the past, the schedule has received criticism following earlier deaths and complaints from workers. However, tech billionaires such as Jack Ma and Inc.’s CEO Richard Liu have supported the practice indicating that it is necessary to survive in a highly competitive environment and it is important in personal wealth accumulation.

Morgan McKinley managing director, Marlon Mai opines that Chinese tech companies should look beyond unicorn status and IPOS. They should have a healthy corporate culture that factors in employee health.

The company’s statement did not indicate the cause of Zhang’s death and didn’t link it to work and unfortunately, there are no indications that police are investigating the matter. In a statement, Pinduduo said that it had sent colleagues to accompany the parents of Zhang when they arrived at Urumqi.