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Chinese High-Tech Workers Launched Online Protest against Long Working Hours

A cyber campaign to protest the long working hours of Chinese high-tech employees spread rapidly on the Chinese Internet. On github.com, the campaign called “996.icu” may not be as big as it was initially, but now it is quickly spreading on the Chinese version of Twitter (Weibo), becoming a hot topic, with more than 500,000 page views of just one post.

Chinese programmers came up with an ironic name, “996.icu.” It means that if you work six days a week, from 9 am to 9 pm every day, you will end up being taken to the intensive care unit of the hospital. Although the campaign is aimed at some of China’s largest technology companies and includes a blacklist detailing employee benefits, campaign organizers have been very cautious in dealing with this issue. The campaign stated in its summary of the principles and purposes: “This is not a political movement. We firmly uphold the labor laws. We require employers to respect the legitimate rights and interests of employees.”
The Chinese Labor Law stipulates that employers can require employees to work overtime for one hour or even three hours a day, but the total overtime for one month cannot exceed 36 hours. 72 hours a week is clearly far beyond this standard. However, labor activists and lawyers point out that companies have many ways to circumvent the law.

According to “996.icu,” the 72-hour work system has been “secret” for a long time. However, more and more companies have been discussing this arrangement publicly. The “996.icu” protest movement also pointed out that e-commerce company, J.D. Com, said in March that some departments have begun to discuss the “996” or “995” work system. Other companies made similar decisions earlier this year. When JD commented on its “996” work system, it said that it was not a mandatory policy, but all employees should be fully devoted to their work.

A key goal of the anti-“996” campaign is to get employers to join the campaign and show their support for labor standards by attaching an anti-“996” license to the software. Reports indicate that this initiative has achieved some results. Next, moving activities offline (and discussing them openly) will be a huge challenge. It is also unclear how long this network movement can last in China’s strictly controlled cyberspace. Internet users have reported that some Chinese-made browsers have blocked access to “996.icu” on Github.

Chinese state media seem to support young high-tech workers and their long-term concerns. A publication in China’s official newspaper, China Youth Daily, described young science workers as being trapped by the “996” work system. The article believes that the labor inspection department should pay more active attention and arrange more intervention. The article also pointed out that today’s “996” work system is not only a problem that high-tech employees face; employees in other industries face the same problem.

Source: Voice of America, April 4, 2019
https://www.voachinese.com/a/china-tech-labor-996-20190404/4862315.html

VOA Chinese: Finland Is Investigating Some Nokia Phones That Send Data to China

Voice of America (VOA) Chinese Edition recently reported that the Finnish authorities are currently investigating the case of certain Nokia cellphone models that are sending sensitive user data to China without the phone owner’s knowledge. The Nokia 7 Plus manufacturer, HMD Global, admitted that there are bugs in the software. The Finnish authorities suspected that the cellphone vendor violated EU data privacy and protection laws. An assessment process is underway. According to NRK, the Norwegian government-owned radio and television public broadcasting company, one of the Nokia users told them that his Nokia 7 Plus cellphone has been connecting to and sending data to servers that China Telecom owned. HMD Global insisted that no data was shared with any other government. Some analysts expressed the belief that these cellphones were designed to sell in the Chinese market; however, some mistakes were made and they were sold in Europe. This event added uncertainty to the global 5G deployment war. Ericsson and Nokia are considered the replacements for Chinese vendor Huawei, since more and more countries are banning Huawei.

Source: VOA Chinese, March 22, 2019
https://www.voachinese.com/a/nokia-phone-data-breach-20190321/4841871.html

China’s Upcoming Personal Credit Investigation Report

Chen Yulu, deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China, recently said, “Many young women are looking for boyfriends. The future mothers-in-law often say, “I will take a look at the guy’s credit investigation report that People’s Bank produces.”

The Personal Credit Investigation Report (PCIR) should be correctly called the “financial credit information infrastructure database.” It includes five types of information: the basics such as “Who you are, where you live, and what you do”; credit information such as “Who you borrowed money from, and whether you have paid it back”; non-financial liabilities, including utility payments such as water and electricity; social security and medical insurance; and lastly, the records of how your credit report has been checked, by whom, and for what reason.

In other words, the PCIR put together by China’s central bank, with the assistance of a computer network and big data technology, faithfully recorded everyone’s everyday life activities and debt repayments, carrying many more details than even a credit agency’s investigations.

One should never underestimate this “economic identity card.” If you don’t pay back the money you owe on time, or if it is overdue, you may not even be able to apply for a credit card. The bank will not process your application for a car loan, a mortgage, a student loan, or consumer credit. Nor can you be a CEO or member of a company’s board of directors. The bank will also directly freeze your deposits and financial products. Even worse, if you are on the list of significantly “dishonest” or “untrustworthy” people, you may not be able to take the plane, ride the high-speed rail, and may even be limited from spending on big ticket items.

China is building a comprehensive network of personal credit information with no blind spot. The PCIR was put into a trial operation starting from November 2018 and the new and formal version will be launched in May of this year. With a fully connected network, a lot of detailed information could be queried. For individuals in China, it is less and less likely to live a private life or one hidden from the government.

Source: The World Journal, March 24, 2019
https://www.worldjournal.com/6193766

China Seeks to Become Cyber Superpower

On March 21, the Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpiece People’s Daily published an article titled, “Make Steady Progress on the Path to Being a Cyber Superpower.”

A year ago, in March 2018, the Central Leading Group for Cybersecurity and Informatization was changed to the Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission. It is in charge of the top-level design and overall layout of China’s cyber industry and coordination and the supervision of major projects in the field.

At the National Cybersecurity and Informatization Work Conference held in April 2018, Xi Jinping gave a speech. “(Xi) emphasized that informatization has brought a rare opportunity for the Chinese nation. We must sharply grasp the historical opportunities of informatization, strengthen the positive propaganda over the Internet, safeguard cybersecurity, promote the breakthroughs in core cyber technologies, play the leading role of information technology in economic and social development, strengthen the military-civilian integration in the field, actively participate in international governance of cyberspace, and independently advance the development of a cyber superpower.”

The article named a list of technologies that China has been pushing forward, including facial recognition, the unmanned supermarket, VR online education, the unmanned cockpit, an artificial intelligence TV anchor, e-government, rural e-commerce, online education, a shared economy, smart travel, mobile payments, remote diagnosis, big data, and cloud computing.

As of November 2018, the number of AI related patent applications in China exceeded 144,000, accounting for 43.4 percent of the total global applications, ranking China as first in the world. From 1997 to 2018, the population of Internet users in China increased from 620,000 to 829 million, with the Internet penetration rate growing from 0.03 percent to 59.6 percent. The scale of online retail transactions now ranks No. 1 in the world. In the next 5 to 10 years, China plans to build the world’s largest IPv6 commercial application network, enabling the next generation of the Internet to be deeply integrated with the various fields of the economy and society.

Source: People’s Daily, March 21, 2019
http://paper.people.com.cn/rmrb/html/2019-03/21/nw.D110000renmrb_20190321_2-01.htm

LTN: China’s February Mobile Phone Sales Dropped to Three-Year Low

Major Taiwanese news network Liberty Times Network (LTN) recently reported that, according to China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, in February, China’s domestic mobile phone market suffered a year-over-year decline of 19.9 percent. This is the lowest point in three years. China’s February handset shipment volume was 14.51 million; 96.4 percent were 4G phones. The 4G market declined by 20.2 percent, year-over-year. When combining January and February total sales, the year-over-year decline was 15.1 percent. Market analysts generally agreed that this is a clear sign that the Chinese mobile phone market has become significantly saturated. Before new technologies like 5G and foldable cellphones are widely available, growth seems to be very limited. In the first two months of this year, the Chinese market had 73 new mobile phone models. This was a year-over-year reduction of 42.1 percent. This means the mobile phone vendors are also taking a conservative approach and hoping new technology may bring new opportunities.

Source: LTN, March 12, 2019
https://ec.ltn.com.tw/article/breakingnews/2724711

Apple Data Center in China’s Ulanqab Breaks Ground

The Apple (Ulanqab) Data Center Project held a groundbreaking ceremony on March 15 in Ulanqab, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. The data center is Apple’s first data center in northern China and will use 100 percent renewable energy. In February 2018, Ulanqab City and Apple held a ceremony for the signing of a cooperation agreement of the iCloud China North Data Center Project. The project is scheduled to be completed and put into operation in 2020.

The Chinese government believes that, in the future, Ulanqab will take advantage of the data center to promote the penetration of big data into a number of fields, and deeply integrate with various industries to form a big data and cloud computing ecology.

Source: China News Service, March 16, 2019
http://www.chinanews.com/cj/2019/03-16/8781614.shtml