PR executive reportedly departs China’s Baidu after comments glorifying overwork draw

Qu said her videos did not represent Baidu’s stance. Baidu operates China’s dominant search engine as well as Ernie Bot, an artificial intelligence service similar to ChatGPT.

“Many of the criticisms are very pertinent, I am reflecting deeply and humbly accept them,” she said. “There are many inappropriate (things said) in the video that caused external misunderstandings about the company’s values and corporate culture, causing serious harm. I sincerely apologise.”

Qu also pledged to improve her communication and management style and care more for her colleagues.

Her comments came at a time when many young people in China are pushing back against a culture of competition and gruelling hours in the workplace.

Qu had also been criticised for other comments she made in the series of short videos on Douyin that have since been removed.

In the series, she threatened to ruin the careers of employees who sent hundreds of complaint letters against her to the office, by ensuring they could not find another job in the industry.

She also criticised an employee who refused to go on a 50-day business trip during the COVID-19 pandemic – a time when China severely restricted movement and required weeks of quarantine for travellers.

“Why should I take into consideration my employee’s family? I’m not her mother-in law,” Qu said, adding that if employees refused to go on such business trips then they would not get salary raises or job promotions.

Chinese technology firms have long been criticised for their long working hours.

A public debate was sparked in recent years over the “996” work culture, where employees in technology firms were expected to work from 9am to 9pm, six days a week. The issue was also spotlighted after the deaths of two employees of Chinese e-commerce platform Pinduoduo, one of whom collapsed suddenly on the street on her way home from work.

Jack Ma, co-founder of Alibaba, also faced criticism in 2019 for endorsing the 12-hour workday culture, saying that those who enjoyed their work would not find the “996” practice to be a problem.

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