Friday, May 24, 2024

Baidu executive quits after social media posts endorse 24/7 work

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Baidu Inc.’s media relations chief has resigned after posting a string of videos endorsing 24/7 work and making light of staff wellbeing, reigniting a furor over the tech industry’s relentless “996” culture.

Qu Jing stepped down on Thursday, according to people familiar with the matter, after posting at least four videos in which she talked about keeping her phone on 24/7 and warned subordinates to toe the line. “I’m not your mother-in-law,” she said in one of the clips she posted to Douyin, China’s version of TikTok.

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The executive’s comments reverberated across social media in China, where a debate has raged about the demands that a then-aggressive tech industry placed on its often young workforce. Dubbed “996” because of the tendency to demand employees work 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. six days a week, the practice came under scrutiny after the unexplained deaths of several tech employees made headlines.

Beijing warned companies off excessive work during a broader crackdown on the powerful sector that began in 2020, though the practice has endured — particularly as jobs dried up in an economic downturn. Qu later apologized, saying those were her personal views and not Baidu’s.

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A Baidu spokesperson didn’t respond to text messages seeking comment.

While Qu drew a plethora of outraged responses, some commentators on social media said she was merely speaking the plain truth about an industry that’s now struggling to grow. The executive had deleted her videos as of Friday and her page merely carried her apology.

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