Tencent, Xiaomi potentially censoring employee grievances on GitHub

Tencent, Xiaomi block employee access to GitHub

For years now, the international media has covered the horrific working conditions of Chinese laborers who fabricate the world’s electronics. However, recent reports have detailed the abysmal work-life balance of Chinese coders. On April 2, The Verge posted a story regarding the subversive way the region’s programmers have commiserated about their terrible jobs.

Ingeniously, developers used the software hosting platform GitHub to share complaints, call out labor violations, and highlight better work opportunities. Sadly, a new report indicates some of the tech companies that are allegedly exhausting their workforces are now blocking their employees’ communication channel.

Inside the Chinese Tech Industry

Earlier this month, American media outlets began reporting on a GitHub repository called 996.ICU. In it, Chinese software engineers shared their tech industry horror stories. Alibaba, Huawei, and DJI developers discussed having to work 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. shifts six days a week, a schedule so grueling it sent some staffers to the intensive care unit.

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Additionally, the region’s programmers discovered wage theft was a common practice. Workers lured in by promises of higher than average wages were met with high production quotas and threats of layoffs if they weren’t met. Consequently, Chinese software engineers for some of the country’s largest corporations forsook their families and personal lives.

Subsequently, coders received paychecks missing their legally mandated overtime and double pack.

As a pressure release, developers began chronicling their experiences on GitHub, a resource utilized by the global tech industry. They also shared leads on 995.WLB jobs, coding positions that offered staffers a meaningful work-life balance via 5 day a week, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. shifts. Soon after its launch, the 996.ICU repository began trending internationally.

Unfortunately, the channel’s popularity garnered global press coverage that might have rendered it domestically inaccessible.

The Hammer Falls

On April 3, Chinese users were no longer able to access the 996.ICU repository on various domestic web browsers. Users found that Tencent, Alibaba, Xiaomi, and Qihoo 360 browsers blocked or restricted access to the repository. The Chinese browsers display the landing page indicating the URL contained “illegal or transgressive” content.

However, the censoring of the GitHub repository doesn’t appear to be the work of the Chinese government. The reason being, when Beijing blacklists a website, its entire domain is blocked. But with Github, only the 996.ICU, repository page is restricted.

The Verge speculates the allegedly abusive tech companies might’ve initiated the block. Denying access to the workers’ repository would stifle criticism but not make a key programming tool inaccessible.

If the Chinese tech firms really are responsible for restricting access to the GitHub repository, they should reverse course. With the current United States-Chinese trade war, the last thing any Asian corporation needs is a torrent of bad press. Huawei’s nonstop series of scandals has undoubtedly harmed its international sales.

Moreover, the corporations involved should address their workers concerns rather than suppress them. Working people to the point of exhaustion and then underpaying them has a deleterious effect on productivity. Conversely, if Chinese Big Tech improved their employees’ quality of life, they’d produce better and more innovative products.

At the very least, they could create digital infrastructures that wouldn’t be deemed unsuitable for international use.