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GitHub Protest Over Chinese Tech Companies’ “996” Culture Goes Viral

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A worker’s complaints over Chinese tech companies’ notorious “996” culture — the idea that employees should work from 9am-9pm 6 days a week — has become one of the fastest growing GitHub repositories ever.

Such working practices are common in China’s tech startup sphere, a sector that has seen explosive growth in recent years but now seems to be slowing significantly.

Related:

Digitally China Podcast: China’s High-Rolling Startup Industry Hits the Brakes

GitHub is technically a site where developers can “host and review code, manage projects, and build software alongside 31 million developers”, but this issue-based contribution appears to have struck a chord with many in the community.

Entitled “996.ICU“, the post lays out various relevant sections of Chinese employment law and states that, “We would like to create an open source software license that protects workers’ rights and interests.”

The name comes from the suggestion that,

“If you continue to tolerate the “996” work schedule, you will risk your own health and might need to stay in an Intensive Care Unit someday. (6 rhymes with U in Mandarin). Developers’ lives matter.”

The initiative comes amid a series of headlines regarding lay-offs at some of China’s biggest tech success stories. Alibaba and Tencent have been the subjects of some such stories while Chinese ecommerce giant JD.com, one of the companies named in the original GitHub post, was forced to deny rumors that they were shedding thousands of staff this week.

UPDATE: The fall-out from, and scope of, this GitHub depositary has grown massively since it was set up. For all the background and the latest, check out this episode of Digitally China, a 996 special including interviews with some of the people behind 996.ICU.

Digitally China Podcast: The Inside Story of China’s Viral 996 Protests

Jake Newby
Jake Newby is a Shanghai-based writer and editor with more than a decade's experience living and working in China. Previously managing editor of Time Out Shanghai, he's also written for publications such as South China Morning Post and the Financial Times.