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WASHINGTON - China's labor laws have long stated that a workday is eight hours long and overtime must be paid to any worker putting in more than 44 hours a week.
For many of China's workers today that describes an idyllic daily grind given the common practice of companies demanding that employees follow a '996' schedule — 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week — to keep their jobs as employers have devised ways around loosely enforced laws.
Entrepreneurs such as Jack Ma, who founded the online retail giant Alibaba, and Richard Liu, chief of e-commerce platform JD.com, praised 996 as their internationally lauded enterprises made them billionaires. They have since walked back their praise, however, as the Chinese government has cracked down its wealthiest citizens.
After the deaths of two workers earlier this year at the online agricultural marketplace app Pinduoduo, long-simmering dissatisfaction in tech and other globally competitive sectors boiled over into public outcry.
Following a ruling last week by China's highest court, employers are on notice: 996 is illegal.
"The overtime issues at some industries and companies have come to the public's attention," the Supreme People's Court said in its decision. "Legally, workers have the right to corresponding compensation and rest times or holidays. Obeying the national regime for working hours is the obligation of employers. Overtime can easily lead to labor disputes, impact the worker-employer relationship and social stability."
Last week's ruling comes as the Xi administration moves to boost the birthrate, even as Chinese couples point to grueling demands of work, child and elder care, and many young Chinese, fed up with a culture of overwork, are "lying flat" to express their frustration.
China's courts and ministries will now develop guidelines to resolve future labor disputes, according to the Aug. 26 ruling, which cited numerous cases focused on required overtime — most but not all of which involved tech companies.
In one case, a courier delivery company employee identified as Zhang was required to work a 996 schedule in 2020. He refused citing China's labor laws.
The company fired him, saying he had failed to fulfill his duties.
A depiction of Chinese history, customs, and laws Image source: wikimedia commonswikimedia commons
Zhang filed a lawsuit against his former employer for wrongful termination.
The high court ruled in favor of Zhang, citing Chinese Labor Law Article 41, saying overtime is capped at 36 hours per month. "The firm's required working hours violated the Labor Law, thus it is deemed illegal," the high court said in its order to pay Zhang 8,000 RMB or about $1,230 dollars for illegal termination.
Another case involved the labor rights violation of a man identified only as "Li" who died of overwork in December 2018. That year, Li had less than three days off in August, September and November, during which he worked 319, 293 and 322.5 hours respectively. His survivors sued the company shortly after his death.
The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security recognized the death as a work injury, according to the court, which ordered the company to pay 766,911 RMB or about $119,000 dollars to Li's family in compensation, saying his "right to rest was severely violated."
In May 1995, China implemented a 40-hour, five-day workweek — standard in the U.S. and many other developed countries.
Since then, many big tech firms and private companies, driven to maximize profits, trim labor costs and compete in a global marketplace, have adopted the 996 model. In 2019, Ma famously said on China's Twitter-like social media platform Weibo that "It's a blessing to be able to do 996."
"If you are not doing 996 when you are young, when can you do it? If we are doing things we love, 996 is not a problem at all," he wrote. The post was soon deleted after vocal criticism from Chinese netizens.
Li Qiang, founder and executive director of the New York-based China Labor Watch, told VOA Mandarin that the 10 cases, all found in favor of the workers, are an important signal that the 996 practice may be coming to an end.
"China has many laws restricting overtime and forced work, but there were no legal precedents to follow," he told VOA Mandarin in a phone interview. "These 10 cases send a signal that China's existing laws could be implemented."
Li also pointed out that the move might have certain political goals, as Chinese regulators have begun cracking down on the country's tech companies in a bid to promote so-called social justice. But it's possible, he added, that companies will develop certain "countermeasures."
"We still need to wait and see if the 996 culture [will] actually disappear," he said.
Front view of the Supreme Court of the Republic of China Image source: wikimedia commonswikimedia commons
Teng Biao, a Chinese human rights lawyer who is a visiting professor at the Pozen Family Center for Human Rights at the University of Chicago, told VOA Mandarin that while the court's warning is a step in the right direction, he worries about enforcement.
"In many places in China, businessmen and government officials have overlapping interests, so the protection of labor rights is very difficult," he told VOA Mandarin by phone.
Liang Xiaojun, a lawyer at Beijing's Daoheng Law Firm, said the warning also has something to do with China's recent push for the three-child policy and its crackdown on private tutoring to reduce the costs of raising kids — all part of a bid to boost population growth.
"They aim at reducing working hours, so young people have time to fall in love, get married, and have kids," he told VOA.
Li from China Labor Watch argued that the ultimate protection of workers' rights lies in the formation of an independent union that will represent employee interests and rights.
The All-China Federation of Trade Unions, the only labor union in China, says in its charter that the union is "a mass organization of the working class led by the Chinese Communist Party."
"Without independent labor unions, workers' rights can't be properly protected," Li warned. "The Chinese Communist Party could potentially have a regulation to protect workers' rights today, and another regulation to protect the companies' interests tomorrow.
"In the end, no one is really protected."
(This article is originally written by Yang Min) (VOA/RN)
Keywords: China, Labour Laws, 996 Schedule, High Court
Along with the undeniable natural beauty, the Kashmir valley has developed a reputation for adventurous activities like trekking, hiking, and river rafting. Kashmir has maintained its charm, allowing us to time-travel into beautiful destinations which make one forget about the stress and worries of life. The hikes in Kashmir offer adventurers to go on a self-discovery trip through nature's lap over the mountains while taking in the breathtaking scenery that surrounds them on their journey. In addition to the hikes, there are many thrilling adventure activities, like rock climbing, rope climbing, etc. Trekking across the region of mountains and lakes will allow you to experience living in the "Paradise on Earth," and you wouldn't want to return to your regular life after that.
The following are some of the finest hiking destinations in Kashmir:
#1: Kashmir Great Lakes Trek: You will be transported to a heavenly and unseen aspect of Kashmir on the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek. In addition to three high-altitude passes and five river valley crossings, this is the only trip in the Himalayas that includes seven alpine lakes, each of which is a stunning shade of green, blue, or turquoise. The extravagance is limitless and breathtakingly stunning every day: infinite blue sky, a larger-than-life backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, colourful meadows overflowing with wildflowers, river crossings are just a few examples of what you will encounter during the trek.
You will be transported to a heavenly and unseen aspect of Kashmir on the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek. | Photo by prayer flags on Unsplash
#2: Sonamarg-Vishansar-Bandipora Trek: The Sonamarg-Vishansar-Bandipora trek is a one-of-a-kind experience that provides a glimpse into Kashmir's undiscovered regions. Sonamarg, famously known as the Meadows of Gold, is the starting point for this fascinating journey that is the perfect experience for anyone looking to get away from the frantic tourist rush. This trek is a fascinating journey that allows nature enthusiasts to bask in the splendour of nature's grandeur. The trek goes over many high mountain passes, some as high as 4000 metres in elevation. The hiking route, in addition to providing breathtaking views of the magnificent Vishansar Lake, provides visitors with the chance to see more than 50 alpine lakes.
Sonamarg, famously known as the Meadows of Gold, is the starting point for this fascinating journey. | Photo by YASER NABI MIR on Unsplash
ALSO READ: Top 10 Beautiful Sights To VIsit In Kashmir
#3: Tral-Narastan-Marsar Trek: The Tral-Narastan-Marsar trek is filled with a range of exciting experiences from beginning to end. The hiking trail passes past a waving saffron field, beautiful meadows, and several streams. The path also crosses the Dachigam National Park, where there is an opportunity to see various animal species. Trekkers may take in spectacular views of the high mountains running parallel to them as they cut and pass through Narastan, a Hindu pilgrimage place.
The Tral-Narastan-Marsar trek is filled with a range of exciting experiences from beginning to end. | Wikimedia Commons
#4: Chhatargul-Mahlish-Gangabal: The journey, which passes through beautiful locations such as Chattargul, Mahlish, Kolsar, and Trunkul, provides a peek into an utterly uninhabited wilderness of Kashmir. There are lakes and meadows adorned with flowers along the route as one trek into the alpine wilderness. Trekkers can also enjoy fishing in the crystal clear lakes, camping, or just seeing towering snow-capped mountains while on their journey.
There are lakes and meadows adorned with flowers along the route as one treks into the alpine wilderness. | Wikimedia Commons
#5: Kolahoi Base Camp Trek: The Kolahoi Base Camp trek in Kashmir has been famous since the early 1900s and has been a goal for many seasoned hikers from across the world. While Srinagar serves as the beginning point for the trip, it is in Aru Valley that the actual hiking begins. The Kolahoi Base Camp Trek is a gentle adventure that is ideal for novices and families with children. The breathtaking sight of the peaks rising into the sky on the horizon of the Pirpanjal and Karakoram ranges is certainly worth capturing. It is considered to be one of the most popular treks in the Kashmir valley.
The Kolahoi Base Camp Trek is a gentle adventure that is ideal for novices and families with children. | Wikimedia Commons
Kashmir's natural splendour, with its beautiful valleys and towering mountains, is really unlike anywhere. Trekking through various valleys and peaks while taking in the scenic beauty is something that always calms the heart and provides us with memories that we will remember for a lifetime.
Keywords: Kashmir, Lakes, Alpine, Hiking, Trekking, Treks, Sonamarg, Gangabal, Kolahoi, Chhatargul, Mahlish, Tral, Narastan, Marsar
The Pitru Paksha starts after the Full Moon day, and this day marks the beginning of the waning phase of the Lunar cycle. This event is roughly of 15-day period, and is of great significance. From this day, rituals like Tarpan or Tarpanam and Shradh are carried out to pay respects to dead relatives and ancestors.
It is believed that from the very first day till the last day, the unhappy souls of the deceased return to the Earth to see their family members. So, in order to ensure that the dead attain Moksha, i.e. to get liberation, family members of these souls quench their thirst and satisfy their hunger by performing the Pind Daan, which includes offering food consisting of cooked rice and black sesame seeds. The literal meaning of Pind Daan is the act of satisfying those who no longer exist physically.
For fifteen days, prayers are offered in temples and rituals are performed to help the souls get free from the cycle of birth, life, and death, and attain salvation.
At the same time, the Pitru Paksha is also an important period for people with Pitru Dosha, which means the curse imposed by the ancestors. Hence, in order to ask forgiveness, people perform Shradh rituals and offer food to the crows, who are considered as living beings that represent the dead. It is believed, if the crow eats the offered food, the ancestors are happy and pleased. But, if the crow doesn't eat the offered food and flies away, the ancestors are not happy.
The event of Pitru Paksha is widely observed by Hindus from all over the world, and they perform prayers and rituals in order to gain their ancestors blessings.
At the heart of Bangalore city, a large 300-acre space of lush greenery and heritage stands as a symbol of the city's past, present, and future. Cubbon Park is every child's favourite park, every Bangalorean's haven of fresh air, and altogether, the city's pride.
It stands testament to the past, in terms of the diversity of flora it houses. Bangalore traffic in the recent past has grown into a menace, but the stretch between MG Road and Cubbon Park is always a pleasurable place to stop and wait for the signal to turn green. The gust of wind that blows here, and the smell of mud, coupled with floral scents instantly transports citizens to Old Bangalore, where the weather was fine, and the trees loomed over roads with thick canopies that did not even allow rainwater to penetrate. Cubbon Park is also a historical site, and one of the few remaining monuments of colonial heritage in Central Bangalore. It houses many statues and among them, the most famous is that of Queen Victoria, which faces the St. Mark's Square.
The stretch outside Cubbon Park is cool and well-shaded from the canopy of trees over it. Image source: wikimedia commons
At present, Cubbon Park is known for the cultural hub that it is. It houses Jawahar Bal Bhavan, which is a large theatre that hosts film festivals through the year. Festivals, poetry open mics, and other such shows are conducted on the lawns every Sunday. A small stream runs through the park, where boat rides are held occasionally when the water level is high enough. There is a children's park on one corner, and a government-maintained aquarium, two-storeys tall, with exotic fish.
The Park has been renamed many times in the past. It was originally named Meade's Park, after Sir John Meade, the acting commissioner of Mysore in 1870. It was later changed to Cubbon Park after Sir Mark Cubbon, who was the longest-serving commissioner of the Mysore state. In 1927, the park was renamed after the Mysore Maharaja Sri Krishna Wodeyar, to celebrate his silver jubilee, since the park was developed during the reign of his ancestors. Even though it is officially named Sri Chamrajendra Park, it is still known as Cubbon Park all over the city. In fact, Bangalore was alluded the sobriquet of 'Garden City' because of the rich botanical diversity of this park.
Art Installation at Cubbon Park Image source: wikimedia commons
In many parts of the country, governments have renamed structures, places, and cities to remove traces of colonialism. But, in a city like Bangalore, there is too much evidence of the British rule. Many of the most prominent attractions of the city are known by their British identities despite the change in name. Even the city's name continues to be Bangalore, despite having been changed to Bengaluru. Last year, the British era and its achievements were celebrated in Cubbon Park when Sir Mark Cubbon's statue was moved from the grounds of the Karnataka High Court and placed in the Park.
Keywords: Cubbon Park, Mark Cubbon, British Colonialism, Cultural hub, Garden City