China’s internet companies might make some world-class products, but their work culture still remains decidedly odd.
Tencent, China’s largest internet company, has sparked outrage on Chinese social media after a 6 second video clip from its annual party was leaked online.The clip showed female employees on their knees, attempting to use their mouths to unscrew the caps off bottles gripped between male coworkers’ thighs.
The stunt, with its obvious sexual overtones, was filmed during an annual party for the Instant Messaging Application Department at Tencent, the team which builds its instant messaging app QQ.
Tencent is the most valuable company in Asia with a market capitalization of $255 million. It also invests in several companies in India, including Hike and Practo.
After the social media backlash, Tencent sought to control damage by condemning the event, and stated that it has given demerit points to the employees involved. “I sincerely apologise, especially to the female colleagues who felt uncomfortable or offended. We will tackle this problem head on and correct our values, and we want to say sorry to our female colleagues,” said the concerned department head in a published statement.
“The annual party is a department activity, and represents the company’s image; we’ve lapsed in our oversight of the party games, and have caused much inconvenience. The various opinions, suggestions and criticisms by everyone have been taken into account, and I can only hope that you can stop circulating the video to protect our colleagues’ privacy.”
But former Tencent employees weighed in, saying the party games were a long standing tradtion. “At a games division annual party three years ago, there was another lurid game where colleagues had to kiss each other through a piece of tissue; a female colleague refused, but was pressured into doing it,” a former Tencent employee said.
This isn’t the first time that Chinese internet firms have come under the scanner for their treatment of women at their workplace. Last year, a Chinese firm had given away nights with a porn star for top performing employees, while another firm had hired “programming cheerleaders” – attractive women in cheerleading outfits – who hung around engineering teams, ostensibly to build morale. Yet another Chinese company had had a requirement that their female employees had to kiss their boss each morning before work.