A video showing a Chinese food delivery driver setting himself on fire in front of a delivery station belonging to Fengniao, the logistics provider for Ele.me, has gone viral, refocusing the spotlight on poor working conditions in China’s tech industry.

Details: A short video [warning: graphic content] showing individuals putting out the flames engulfing a deliveryman in downtown Taizhou, a city in eastern Jiangsu Province, went viral on Chinese social media. The individual was sent to the hospital reportedly in a condition presenting no risk to life.

  • The one-minute video shows the scene from Monday morning when a man is found laying in the street with flames all over his body. Local residents rush to the spot and put out the the fire with extinguishers. The man is highly emotional after the flames are put out, saying “I don’t even want my life, I want my hard-earned money back,” (our translation) to the crowd.
  • The wage dispute involved the driver signing an exclusive contract to work for Fengniao, and then missing work days with the company to work for other platforms, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.
  • A Weibo hashtag titled “Jiangsu deliveryman burns himself with gasoline” had attracted 1.28 million views as of Tuesday morning.
  • Ele.me confirmed to TechNode that the man was a former employee of a third-party hiring agency working for Fengniao.
  • “We are saddened by the tragic event. The situation is currently under investigation and we are unable to comment at this stage,” an Ele.me spokesman said.

Context: Chinese tech companies are accused of compelling excessive overtime schedules as well as financial pressure on their workers.

  • Working conditions for the millions of food delivery drivers powering the rise of major internet lifestyle platforms have long been an issue in China, including incidents from deliveryman strikes to a driver stabbing a store employee.
  • Alibaba-backed Ele.me draw public ire after saying it will only pay RMB 2,000 (around $310) compensation to the family of a 43-year-old courier who died on the job. The company later raised the compensation to RMB 600,000.
  • Alibaba rival Pinduoduo is facing a similar backlash for its culture of overtime.

READ MORE: Food delivery: Drivers take the risks. Platforms reap the rewards.

Updated: included statements from the company and detail about the wage dispute.

Emma Lee (Li Xin) was TechNode's e-commerce and new retail reporter until June 2022, when she moved to Sixth Tone to cover technology and consumption. Get in touch with her via lixin@sixthtone.com or Twitter.