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Pinduoduo employee's death sparks labor probe

By LI LEI | China Daily | Updated: 2021-01-06 08:55
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The Pinduoduo logo is seen in this photo taken July 17, 2018. [Photo/Agencies]

The recent death of an employee of Pinduoduo, a fast-growing e-commerce giant, has reignited public concerns over the hectic work schedules commonly adopted by Chinese tech firms.

The incident has also prompted employment authorities in Shanghai, where Pinduoduo is registered, to investigate the New York-listed company for alleged abuses of labor rights.

The employee, identified only by her surname Zhang, worked with Pinduoduo's expanding grocery delivery service in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.

She apparently suffered from a stomachache before fainting on a street in Urumqi, the regional capital, at 1:30 am on Dec 29 when she was walking home after work with colleagues, the company said in a statement posted on Sina Weibo, a microblogging service, on Monday.

The 22-year-old, who joined Pinduoduo in July 2019, died at a local hospital after a six-hour resuscitation effort failed to save her, it said.

The statement also included a screenshot of a message that Pinduoduo said was posted by Zhang's father on WeChat, an instant-messaging tool. Pinduoduo said it was authorized to repost the message.

The father wrote that the Zhang family hoped to let his daughter finish her last leg of life "quietly", and begged people not to involve her in the swirl of "public opinions".

"Our colleagues have been accompanying Zhang's family, and Zhang's body was cremated on Jan 3 as her family wished," the company said.

"We love you, miss you deeply," it added.

The statement didn't mention the cause of death, but netizens were quick to allege that working late nights led to the tragedy.

"Is it really hard to get off work on time?" one Weibo user commented.

"Two employees are paid the salaries of three, but are told to finish tasks that should have been shared among four," another added, referring to the excessive workload facing well-paid tech firm employees.

The Labor Security Inspectorate in Shanghai's Changning district quickly stepped in.

The labor watchdog told Beijing Youth Daily on Monday that it had noticed the public opinions circulating online and decided to launch an investigation into the company's employment practices.

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