China’s top government media outlets are adding their voices to the debate around the 12-hour work practice in the tech industry, harshly reminding entrepreneurs to “obey the rules” and “avoid chaos.”

According to a commentary released Tuesday via state-owned Xinhua News Agency, China Labor Law dictates that work schedules should not exceed eight hours per day and 44 hours on average per week. Given specific reasons, workers can put in a maximum of three hours per day and 36 hours per month of overtime. “Obviously, the 996 work schedule is illegal,” said Xinhua (our translation).

Well-known shorthand referring to 12 hours a day, six days a week at top Chinese tech companies, 996 has triggered extensive public debate over the weekend following Alibaba founder Jack Ma’s pronouncement that overtime work culture was a “huge blessing.” In remarks posted on Alibaba’s WeChat account, the billionaire entrepreneur defended the 12-hour workweek, asking, “how can you achieve huge success if you don’t spare more time and effort than others?” (our translation).

Start your free trial now.

Get instant access to all our premium content, archives, newsletters, and online community.

Monthly Membership

Yearly Membership

What you get

Full access to all premium content and our full archives

Members'-only newsletters

Preferential access and discounts to all TechNode events

Direct access to the TechNode newsroom

Start your free trial now.

Get instant access to all our premium content, archives, newsletters, and online community.

Monthly Membership

Yearly Membership

Jill Shen

Jill Shen is Shanghai-based technology reporter. She covers Chinese mobility, autonomous vehicles, and electric cars. Connect with her via e-mail: jill.shen@technode.com or Twitter: @yushan_shen