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China tech

Chinese authorities say '996' overtime practice is illegal

Top court decision came after ByteDance pledged to end weekend working policy

ByteDance, owner of the TikTok video platform, announced last month the end of its compulsory weekend overtime policy.   © Reuters

SHANGHAI (Reuters) -- China's Supreme People's Court said the overtime practice of "996" -- working 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. six days a week -- is illegal, taking aim at the controversial policy that is common among many Chinese technology companies.

China's top court and the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security on Thursday published guidelines and examples on what constituted overtime work, saying they were focusing on the issue as it had attracted widespread attention recently.

While the authorities used a case involving a parcel delivery company to explain why the "996" practice was illegal, working such hours had become a badge of honor for some Chinese companies and employees.

Silicon Valley heavyweights such as Sequoia Capital's Mike Moritz have highlighted it as a competitive advantage that China had over the United States.

But a backlash surfaced in 2019, prompting a public debate about working hours in China's tech industry, which has since continued.

Last month, TikTok owner ByteDance said that it would formally end its weekend overtime policy from Aug. 1, two weeks after its short-video rival Kuaishou announced a similar decision.

The court and ministry's criticism of "996" also comes amid a wide-ranging Beijing-led regulatory crackdown on the country's big technology groups that has targeted issues from monopolistic behavior to consumer rights.

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