Mirroring the push for more fairness and accountability at tech firms in the US, Chinese workers took to Github, the popular code repository website now owned by Microsoft, to start a blacklist of sorts.
The name of the project is a reference to the idea that many tech workers work 9 a.m.to 9 p.m., six days a week, even though such practices are illegal in China.
There are already more than 150 projects on GitHub subject to the Anti-996 License. In their letter, Microsoft workers called on Microsoft and Github to keep the forum "uncensored and available to everyone".
Microsoft's GitHub platform isn't exactly known for activism.
The ICU refers to employees who work under these grueling hours, eventually ending up in the Intensive Care Unit at hospitals.
But some companies on the 996 list, including Tencent-the world's largest gaming company, which owns League of Legends developer Riot Games and has stakes in other companies including Epic Games, Activision Blizzard, Ubisoft, and Paradox-have responded not by improving working conditions but by restricting access to the repository, according to a report by the Guardian. The project calls for Chinese tech companies to obey the labour laws in China and the global labour convention. They note that Tencent and Alibaba are trying to block access to the 996icu repo in their web browsers by marking the content malicious or illegal. "We know this is a problem that crosses national borders".
The letter is signed by "30 tech workers". These same issues permeate across full time and contingent jobs at Microsoft and the industry as a whole. The project has also been starred almost 230,000 times - a way for GitHub users to show their support or interest for a project.
"History tells us that multinational companies will pit workers against each other in a race to the bottom as they outsource jobs and take advantage of weak labor standards in the pursuit of profit", the letter said.
For tech workers in China, a brutal work schedule of 9am to 9pm, 6 days a week (usually just called "996") is not only commonplace, it's been hailed as "a huge blessing" by the likes of Alibaba's eccentric and fantastically wealthy taskmaster, Jack Ma.
In late March, Katt Gu, an attorney and informatics doctoral student at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, in the United States, with the assistance of Suji Yan, CEO of privacy tech biz Dimension, drafted the Anti-996 License, an open source software license that requires organizations using covered code to agree to respect labor laws and to not pressure workers to give up their rights.