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Founded in 2015, PDD has rapidly grown to become China’s second-biggest e-commerce platform with over 731 million active buyers. Photo: Handout

Video by former Pinduoduo employee alleging poor working conditions at social commerce giant goes viral

  • In the video, a man named Wang accused the Shanghai-based firm of forcing its employees to work unreasonably long hours
  • PDD say they fired Wang for ‘repetitively posting malicious and extreme comments’ on Maimai

A video posted by a former employee of Pinduoduo (PDD) detailing working conditions at the social e-commerce giant has gone viral amid heightened public concern over the long hours work culture at the country’s tech giants.

In a 15-minute video posted late on Sunday to his Weibo account, the former employee – who identifies himself by his screen name Wang Taixu – said he was abruptly fired from PDD on Friday. He said he was terminated because of a post he made on anonymous professional social network Maimai about a co-worker being hospitalised.

Wang accused the Shanghai-based firm of forcing its employees to work unreasonably long hours and alleged poor working conditions, including a shortage of toilet seats and providing spoiled food to workers.

“[They] have discovered that there is at least one company in China that can force some of its most brilliant minds to work like slaves,” Wang said in the video. “I think I can use one sentence to describe this company: it lacks the care for its employees that’s probably lacking in all major internet companies. All of these are real and weigh on every employee at Pinduoduo.”

Pinduoduo issued a statement on Monday morning confirming the identity of Wang as a former employee and explained that he was fired due to “repetitively posting malicious and extreme comments” on Maimai, in an apparent reference to the video.

Pinduoduo faces growing PR storm over death of young worker

Wang did not respond to a private request for comment sent via Weibo. PDD did not respond to the Post’s request for further comment by time of publication.

PDD was one of the top-trending topics on Weibo on Monday and the video is another sign of growing public concern over the so-called “996” work culture prevalent at China’s big tech companies, which is a reference to working from 9am to 9pm, six days a week. Controversy over 996 has been brewing for the past few years, with some Chinese tech entrepreneurs calling on their employees t o embrace the culture in order to succeed.

However, the recent furore also comes in the wake of some employee deaths at PDD.

Last week PDD confirmed the death of a 22-year-old female employee, surnamed Zhang, who collapsed at around 1:30am on December 29 while walking home from work with colleagues. The cause of death is not yet known and a police investigation is under way. Zhang worked for Duoduo Maicai.

Separately, last week an employee committed suicide. PDD said in a statement on Saturday that a police investigation is under way into the case.

Death of Pinduoduo employee goes viral online, sparking an investigation

In the wake of Zhang’s death, Shanghai’s local labour authority last week announced an investigation into Pinduoduo’s labour conditions, without providing further details.

Two former PDD employees, who asked for anonymity for fear of reprisals, told the Post that they agreed with Wang’s broad accusations about long working hours and poor working conditions at PDD.

Aside from Monday’s viral video, some netizens also called for people to uninstall the PDD app, while some asked for China’s state broadcaster CCTV to cancel its partnership with PDD at China’s biggest annual Spring Festival Gala.

“I’m just a nobody but I think the world shouldn’t be like this. All I can do is to delete Pinduoduo although I know this means nothing … I hope someone can see this and there will be changes,” said one netizen, with a screen name of userordinaryperson1286, in a widely shared Weibo post.

Founded in 2015, PDD has rapidly grown to become China’s second-biggest e-commerce platform with over 731 million active buyers, trailing only Alibaba’s Taobao. The Nasdaq-listed company is known for its group-buying model and deep discounts, and its founder Colin Huang is the country’s second-richest man.

Alibaba Group is the owner of the Post.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, or you know someone who is, help is available. For Hong Kong, dial +852 2896 0000 for The Samaritans or +852 2382 0000 for Suicide Prevention Services. In the US, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on +1 800 273 8255. For a list of other nations’ helplines, see this page.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Former Pinduoduo staff’s video alleging poor work conditions goes viral