Executives from several Chinese internet companies are jumping onto a public bandwagon to convey support for a former NetEase employee who publicized his termination from the company over the weekend in an effort to share the spotlight on a top trending topic on Chinese social media.

Why it matters: Following a heated round of protest early in the year against “996,” shorthand for a demanding work schedule from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. six days a week, the Chinese public has become more sensitive to harsh employee treatment, particularly within technology industries.

Details: The show of support ranged from publicizing beefed up corporate policies to pledges of outright financial support from Chinese tech executives.

  • At the request of CEO Richard Liu, e-commerce giant JD.com on Monday updated its employee benefits to cover education and living expenses for dependent children in the event of an employee death. The support will last until the children reach age 22 regardless of the cause of death, according to a WeChat Moments post from company Vice President Song Yang.
  • Song also reiterated in the post an existing company policy that covers all expenses for treatment of serious illnesses, applicable to employees who have worked at JD.com for five years or more.
  • Chinese crypto entrepreneur Justin Sun, who was in the media spotlight after he won a charity auction with a record $4.57 million bid for lunch with famed investor Warren Buffett, said in a Weibo post that he would cover all medical expenses for the former NetEase employee.
  • Xu Bo, the CEO and founder of Guangzhou-based gaming company Duoyi Network, also offered a donation of up to RMB 1 million for the former NetEase employee. However, Xu said in a Weibo post that the employee has to receive treatment at a specified hospital in Guangzhou to be eligible for the donation.
  • Xu also echoed JD in offering a new death benefit for employees’ dependent children, but included restrictions such as providing for “normal living and domestic education expenses.”

Context: NetEase came under fire on Chinese social media over the past few days for laying off an employee with a serious heart condition who claimed that he was fired without cause.

  • In a WeChat article, the former employee detailed how he had the second-highest output on his team but still didn’t pass his employee evaluation, as well as how the company tried to deny him adequate compensation.
  • NetEase apologized for its “insensitive” and “crude” practices but stated that the former employee did not meet quality standards in his work despite his high output.
  • According to the newest statement from NetEase, the employee has received a compensation of RMB 240,000 ($34,000) following labor arbitration and has filed a new claim for an additional RMB 616,929.

NetEase under fire on Chinese social media for treatment of ill employee

Tony Xu is Shanghai-based tech reporter. Connect with him via e-mail: tony.xu@technode.com

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