China is one of the countries where the internet is heavily censored, thanks to the country’s Great Firewall. Users cannot access social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Home-grown services like WeChat are used for messaging apps and social networking, but they are monitored as well.
Amidst no means to vent out their anger, Chinese IT workers have resorted to GitHub to express their demands against the long working hours. The code collaboration platform has become a mouthpiece for Chinese IT professionals to protest against the “996” working culture — 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., 6 days a week.
A Repository For Protest
A group of Chinese developers demanding improved working conditions have created a repository called “996.ICU” where the ICU part refers to the common joke that the 996 work culture will send you to the Intensive Care Unit.
The repository has emerged as one of the most popular projects on GitHub with as many as 200,000 GitHub members following it.
Unlike other repositories on GitHub, it does not contain codes but grievances and complaints regarding stretched working hours from Chinese developers against popular companies like Alibaba, DJI, Huawei and many more.
This emergence of an unconventional platform for collective dissent is something new and shows how badly the internet censorship is affecting Chinese citizens.
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Can China Block GitHub To Suppress Protest?
Blocking GitHub is simply not an option for the Chinese government as the platform serves as a valuable resource to many companies. If the government tries to block the repository, it won’t be long before the backup repositories will appear.
Even if the state comes up with a means to monitor GitHub to prevent collective action, there are other platforms like GitLab that could be used by the exploited workers and those against internet censorship.
It’s not that Chinese developers are using the platform for dissent. Instead, a repository has also been created with a list of companies that are offering fair working conditions. “955.WLB,” referring to 9 a.m. to 5 pm work timing, five days a week and proper work-life balance is the third most trending repository on GitHub currently.
The repository contains the names of companies like WeWork, Google, Intel, Microsoft, IBM and others who believe in workers’ rights.