Baidu PR boss apologises after comments glorifying toxic overwork culture sparks anger in China

‘If you work in public relations, don’t expect weekends off,’ PR head says in now-deleted video

Namita Singh
Thursday 09 May 2024 11:05 BST
FILE: Minister blames misogyny culture in parliament on long working hours

A senior official of Baidu was forced to apologise after she was seen glorifying a toxic overwork culture, sparking a in a public relations nightmare and widespread outrage in China.

Positing herself as a tough task manager, Cristina Jing Qu posted videos on Dourin, the Chinese version of TikTok, saying she has no responsibility to “consider employees as family” because “I’m not your mother”.

In a series of videos published over the May Day holiday period, she said: “If you are not satisfied with your job, feel free to resign. I will approve it immediately.”

“If you work in public relations, don’t expect weekends off. Keep your phone on 24 hours a day, always ready to respond."

She also allegedly threatened subordinates criticising her management style, saying: "I can make it impossible for you to find a job in this industry with just a short essay.”

Her remarks have turned into a PR nightmare for the Chinese search engine with stock prices dropping by 2.17 per cent on 7 May amid a huge public outcry.

"As the company’s vice-president, [Ms Qu] should have known that her comments and attitude would disgust her subordinates, yet she went ahead to make them public. This speaks of how out-of-touch she is," one user wrote, according to the BBC.

"She is supposed to lead Baidu’s public relations department, yet she herself is deeply involved in a public relations crisis. Talk about a lack of professionalism," said another.

Subsequently, the videos from the Dourin account were removed, as Ms Qu issued a public apology to "very pertinent" criticism.

“I have carefully read all the opinions and comments from various platforms, and many criticisms are very pertinent. I deeply reflect on and humbly accept them,” she wrote on WeChat, reported the Global Times.

"I apologise that the inappropriate videos led to the public’s misunderstanding of my company’s values and corporate culture,” she said, highlighting that the views were private in nature and not that of the organisation.

"I will learn from my mistakes and improve the way I communicate, and care more for my colleagues," she wrote.

In 2019, Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma endorsed a 996 work culture – where people worked from 9am to 9pm for six days a week – and called it a “blessing”.

According to China’s labour law, a standard work day is eight hours long with a maximum of 44 hours a week. Beyond that requires extra pay but employers seldom enforce it. Earlier in 2021, China’s top court and the labour ministry were forced to issue a stern reminder to organisations about the work hours, after at least 10 employers lost the case over the breach of rules.

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