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  • Photography, Project Shanghai

    Document of a Dying Neighborhood

    By Cindy Kuan 26 July 2016 83055 views

    In his Adios, Green Village project, Robin Mas spent two years shooting residents in a traditional neighborhood in Gubei, Shanghai that's just about to be demolished.

    This Friday, photographer Robin Mas is holding a one-night-only, on-site exhibit of portraits that he took over two years in a traditional neighborhood in Gubei district -- miles out West from anywhere most foreigners living here are willing to go. The area, which Mas refers to as "The Green Village" because of the predominant paint color on its buildings, is scheduled for demolition at the end of the month, so the photographs will be scattered throughout the "Village" for attendees to find on their own. Explains Mas: "I wanted visitors to go around the village and hunt for the photos, trying to appropriate the space and break the barrier of unfamiliarity… just like I had to do while working on this project." He's also prepared an interactive digital map that visitors will be able to download onto their mobile phones in order to track down each piece and learn more in-depth information about each portrait. Here, Mas talks to CH about the project -- how it all got started, the drama that went down and what he got from the whole experience. "When I landed in China 4 years ago, I was first staying at a friend’s house in one of those expat compounds of Gubei. Behind the tall walls protecting us from the ‘real life’ was this slum-y neighborhood that felt like it was almost as quarantined as we were..." "When asked whether she cared that the village would disappear, one woman responded: 'You foreigners are too sentimental, for us those buildings are like clothes: when they're too old, you change them.'" "The place’s visual particularity -- the worn out green painted walls -- as well as this street liveliness you find only in those older streets, drew me to it. Upon starting to work on images there in 2011 and talking with the locals, it took a bigger signification: [about] to be destroyed anytime soon, it appeared to be a sort of ephemeral and constantly renewing microcosm that could live in autocracy, cut from the rest of the city..." "As a photographer, faced with this pool of faces and stories that come and go, the uncertain nature of their stay, I felt compelled to produce a memory of this peculiar human theater." "The place felt quite hostile at first, like you had entered a forbidden world. So [at first] it was important to go there with a camera, but not shoot. Only talking. The response was mixed… The first day of shooting with all the equipment, an assistant, a huge and scary medium format camera… I faced an angry mob -- kids yelling that I was going to put it on the Internet to show the world how dirty China is -- and then the cops showed up. They just wanted to scare me away, but after that I learnt to keep a lower profile." "Old men were urging me to shoot the Bund instead of this, some people would not pose at all, too shy or maybe they didn't see the point. Then I started hanging out with some families, reduced my equipment to a bare minimum, getting more personal… and had photos to bring back from one time to the other. [It later got] to the point where lots of people knew me, were asking when I would photograph them, volunteering and welcoming me… they even started calling me 'Chuchu.'" "There’s a family I was close to -- the image "Mother," [with] a woman holding her son -- they've since left, and now I can never give them the photos. We’d gotten closer as her English was really good. She would tell me how she worries about her son being too 'fragile' for the local school to accept him, and I would see the little guy running around with his mohawk hair drinking Yakult all day… you know, those are details, but that's pieces of life. They make the photos dearer to me." "This woman I photographed in 2011 was nowhere to be found. All residents would tell me she's around, but I never managed to run into her, until this one day where we -- me and my assistant -- literally tracked her down and found her house, woke her up to give her this two-year old photo." "I had never seen her again since I photographed her, but she was there, barely awake, taking the time to tell us about her life and share with us. This is why I do what I do, the links I establish with the subjects of the photos are often quick and superficial in appearance, but there really is something deeper and more significant to the 'photographic encounter.'" "I’ve learnt a lot about the life of the 'village' and the residents. The buildings belong to old Shanghainese, mostly, and they will be relocated when the place is torn down. But all of the migrant workers seemed to have a very fatalist approach to life. Not in a bad way. They're not too concerned about what's next, they improvise. They're also very down to heart, they skip the drama." *** On the equipment used, Mas tells us: "My pro DSLR, and a portable light kit with a softboxer [umbrella with diffuser], for this over-reality feel." The Adios, Green Village exhibit will be held outdoors, in this neighborhood, located at Minhang Hongqiaozhen Hongliucun Caojiajiao at the intersection of Hongzhong Lu and Huagang Lu. It runs this Friday Sunday only, starting at 2pm. More details here . Update: Exhibit postponed to Sunday, September 15 at 2pm due to heavy rainfall. Robin Mas' commercial work, which chiefly covers portraiture and F&B in Shanghai, can be seen on his personal page here. Images courtesy of Robin Mas

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  • CH5

    CH5: Creative Hangouts

    By Cindy Kuan 26 July 2016 12823 views

    In our first installment of the CH Guide to Creative Hangouts, we pick five of the city's best spots for meeting and working in inspirational spaces conducive to creativity.

    Research from a recent study published in Psychological Science suggests that a messy desk may stimulate creativity and generation of ideas in some people. We're not sure if this is a chicken-or-egg type of situation -- are you creative because your desk is messy, or is your desk messy because you're a creative type? -- but what anyone with a laptop and a brain can tell you is that some settings are simply better for getting those creative juices flowing. Whether you're looking for an alternative workspace to your office, or on the lookout for a regular haunt to base your freelance operations, here are some CH-certified picks of some of the city's top creative hangouts for independent working or casual meetings -- because sometimes, you just want to take in some coffee in a quiet corner without Taylor Swift sobbing at you through the stereo. And -- take note, starving artists: we've thrown in some free public spaces in there, too.

    1984 Bookstore

    11 Hunan Lu, near Wukang Lu | Full Listing →

    1984 Bookstore, which doubles up as a cafe, sits on Hunan Lu with plenty of quirk and quiet. It's ideal for those looking for a place to read, work and have a momentary respite from the daily grind. The place is usually dotted with people reading, working and generally lazing about. 1984 doesn't have the social ambience and carbon copy design of places like Starbucks and Costa Coffee, which may be exactly what you're looking for if you're a creative type looking for a wifi-enabled place to work and chill. There's also an extensive, albeit disorganized collection of English and Chinese classics that forms an informal book swap system for customers. Most of the books for sale are the ones you were probably forced to read in high school and college, plus a smaller selection of contemporary bestsellers. The food and drink selection here is pretty limited, but they do serve fresh juices, smoothies and pretty decent coffee. The spacious courtyard houses the occasional roaming cat, and a collection of artwork and awesome posters decorates the walls within. One of our favorites: a sign just outside the courtyard that says: "Big Brother is Watching You". Kind of creepy. But also kind of cool.

    Chi Art Space

    1/F, 300 Huaihai Zhong Lu, near Huangpi Nan Lu | Full Listing →

    Chi Art Space, located on the ground floor of K11 Art Mall, has a nice workshop and study space in the far left corner of the room. It's basically got the feel of a library, but without the stuffy smell or glare of disapproving librarians to deal with. A bookshelf filled with art journals and magazines spans the entire length of the wall, and a couple of long tables are open for sitting around and reading, or for meeting and chatting with like-minded artsy types. We've also seen plenty of pensive-looking squatters staring off into the distance too. K11 also hosts regular workshops and talks by local artists here, both in English and Chinese. It's part of an exhibition space, so food and drink aren't really welcome, but we've also seen some folks here with a thermos or to-go cup of coffee in hand. In any case, the space is free to use, so you can't really complain if you're asked to finish your coffee elsewhere before settling in. Being part of a mega mall, Chi Art Space also comes with easy access to tons of other quick and (mostly) affordable F&B options, so you can get all your needs covered without ever having to depart from the cooling comforts of the AC.

    Seesaw Cafe

    Rm 101, 433 Yuyuan Lu, near Wulumuqi Bei Lu | Full Listing →

    Within walking distance of Jing’an Temple is Seesaw Cafe, a courtyard coffee shop nestled inside of the Jing’an Design Center, that hub of creative companies housed down an alleyway on Yuyuan Lu. Seesaw has stylish, minimalist decor, really friendly staff and one of the most solid coffee selections we've seen in the city. The folks here take their coffee pretty seriously, importing their beans from Guatemala, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Yunnan province. The cafe also stocks Strictly Cookies and small individual portions of homemade French desserts like fruit tarts and millefeuille. Both indoor and "outdoor" seating in a large courtyard are available, but since this courtyard area is covered with a high glass rooftop, you get lots of sunshine without coming into direct contact with the sun's rays. Seesaw Cafe also hosts a lot of events -- such as the monthly Likemind coffee social for creatives, or the occasional gathering for those with niche interests (we've seen a massive doll collectors' conference held here before) -- and the baristas even offer introductory classes and “latte art” competitions for creating designs and patterns in the foam topping of coffee beverages. Free wifi too.

    Song Fang Maison de Thé

    227 Yongjia Lu, near Shanxi Nan Lu | Full Listing →

    For those who don't like coffee, Song Fang Maison de Thé is a former French Concession lane house that's been converted into a tea salon with free wifi and plenty of seating. It was created in 2007 by native Parisian Florence Samson, a current Shanghai resident who wanted to share her love of good tea. The first floor consists of a retail space that showcases Song Fang’s signature blue tea canisters, as well as all manner of bells and whistles for preparing these fancy schmancy teas (in both Western and Chinese tea preparation styles). We love the winding wooden staircase to the second floor, which has an impressive display of colorful old-school vintage tin cans brought in from Northern China. The second floor is a spacious and well-lit room decorated with empty birdcages hanging from the ceiling and floral printed wicker chairs and sofas -- all really nice touches. The menu's selection of 70 Chinese and French teas is pretty overwhelming at first, but one of our favorites remains China Blue, a rich and creamy blend of white tea with notes of coconut, blackberry and orange. Song Fang also serves an assortment of homemade French cakes, cookies and ice cream. Overall, an excellent work space for those looking for extreme peace and quiet with simple, elegant decor to surround them.

    Red Town

    570 Huaihai Xi Lu, near Hongqiao Lu | Full Listing →

    Red Town, that small mecca of galleries, exhibition spaces and creative offices waaay west on Huaihai Xi Lu, isn't really a conventional work spot, but if working at a desk isn't an absolute must for you, then the center of this space has a fantastic, large grassy lawn that's great for reading, relaxing, doodling, picnicing and whatever else that people without wifi do these days. Weekends see a lot of young families using the space much like they would a park, so you might see a few screaming children and frisbees whizzing about on Saturdays and Sundays. From Monday to Friday, Red Town's public spaces make a great place for casual meetings and quietly working off the grid. It's especially nice in the spring months, when the sunshine surrounds you and makes even the weird, alarmingly angular sculptures punctuating the grass look kind of pretty. Galleries such as the Minsheng Art Museum line the place -- not to mention small boutiques, cafes and restaurants -- so weaving in and out of exhibits before settling in on the lawn could be an additional source of inspiration. *** Written in conjunction with CH contributing writer Daniel Alter Photography by Brandon McGhee

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  • Arts & Culture, Design, Tech

    [Designer Downloads]: Productivity Apps

    By Cindy Kuan 13 July 2016 4084 views

    Digital app recommendations from Shanghai's creative agency movers and shakers —here are the ones they use for boosting productivity, from handling image translations to project management.

    Asana "Asana is a really helpful project management app which works on mobile as well as on your computer browser. Managing a team based in Bangkok and Shanghai, as well as extensive travel, make this app essential to delivering projects to clients. The app allows you to assign tasks, schedule due dates, comment on tasks and organize tasks by projects, among other useful features." —Anchalika Wongwaiwisarn Managing Director, Neat Interactive Harvest "Based on our budgets and time estimates in our quotes we have to track all of the time used on each project to determine company and department profit. We use a software called Harvest to do that. Harvest not only tracks time but gives visual reports, timesheets and can manage invoicing and estimates... I did a lot of research on time tracking/productivity software but decided Harvest was best for us." —Chad Lethbridge Creative Director, Swedbrand Baidu Translate "Baidu Translate has a very cool feature that can translate an image from Chinese to English. So for example, if I can't read a sign or even a label, I can take a photo of it and it can translate it. You can actually even use your camera and it will directly translate the object for you!" —Don Yap Photographer, Don Yap Photography Wunderlist "I often forget things someone has told me about before, especially when someone tips you about an amazing holiday destination, hotel or bar to visit. This app helps me to remember anything I want to come back to in the future—over the past years, I've made lists for groceries, music to listen to, films to watch, books to read, clubs to visit, etc. It's not only helpful to remember, but also saves paper and allows you to edit your grocery lists or share them with your partner." —Florijn Steenhuisen Business Development, Bundspace Prezi "Since I discovered it, I'm totally in love with Prezi! ( is a cloud-based presentation app). It allows you to put all your content on a single canvas—instead of creating a series of separate slides—and then you trace a path from one item to another. You can create animated presentations with a few clicks!" Abukai Expenses "A 'boring' mobile app I use a lot is Abukai Expenses which helps me to perform the mundane task of filing expense reports and reimbursements. You can take pictures of the fapiao, submit them, and receive a finished report." —Veronica Beretta Event Manager [Creative Services], MCI Group NetEase Youdao [有道云笔记] "If you are familiar with the Chinese language, then NetEase Youdao is a great app for taking notes and enhancing productivity. The handwriting experience is great and the app is password-protect for important documents. I'm actually also a fan of Adobe Reader. The app is great for reading PDFs on the go and highlighting key parts or making notes." —Ying Mu Corporate Branding Manager, Labbrand WeChat "This might seem like an obvious choice but WeChat is really my 'go-to' app to virtually communicate with my team, the media and even clients. Its group chat function is smartly designed for real-time text, voice and visual messages—all while keeping a neat record of it. I have even conducted interviews on WeChat vs. the phone as the app allows voice messages to be replayed for clarity and recorded for archive. It's a handy web and mobile app that has really changed and enhanced professional communication and productivity." —Wendy Fung Corporate Communications, Ogilvy & Mather China In case you missed it, here's our first installment of this series, which listed apps for creative inspiration. ***

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  • Education

    [CH Tips]: How to Give Fapiao as a Freelancer

    By Cindy Kuan 13 July 2016 6582 views

    CH talks to a tax law specialist to see how freelancers in China can pay tax, give fapiao to their clients and get potential tax deductions. All legit.

    Until recently, the freelancer fapiao dilemma—having to provide official invoices to clients but not having the means to register as official businesses that are eligible to issue fapiao—has been solved by third-party companies issuing fapiao on behalf of the freelancer. Some people can do this through guanxi, with friends at registered companies helping to issue additional fapiao from their own printers, while others find ethically lax companies that charge them for doing the same thing. For advice on alternative methods, CH talked to Jason Xu, General Manager at Intertrust Group in Shanghai. Xu is a certified CPA who specializes in foreign-owned enterprise taxation and expatriate taxation, as well as foreign direct investments. 1. The most straightforward method of paying taxes as a freelancer is to have the client company deduct tax directly from your payment. "A freelancer can pay tax through direct deduction, even if he or she is not employed by that company. In China, we have two main types of income related to employment of freelancers. One of them is the salary income. The other is the service income. For freelancers, it should be the service income, because they are providing services. So, the company using their services can legally withhold individual income tax from the service payment. The tax rate is the same in this instance, from 20% to 40% on service income. I think that if it’s not possible for freelancers to obtain invoice, this should be the best option to pay their income tax in China." 2. If you do this, remember to request documentation from the company that shows tax was deducted from your payment. Otherwise, you can receive a tax payment certificate at the local tax bureau. "In these instances, the income is declared as a payment to an individual, so no fapiao is needed for that. But, the freelancer should make sure to ask the company for proof of taxes paid. The company can obtain the tax payment receipt from the local tax bureau* each month. Or, you yourself can obtain a tax payment certificate (完税证明, wanshui zhengming) from the local tax bureau. When the company withheld taxes [from your payment], they filed taxes for you under your name and passport number, so they will submit the information to the local tax bureau. You just take your passport or ID card, and get them to print the receipt from the machine." 3. Otherwise, if you need to provide original fapiao, your local tax bureau can tax you directly and issue the fapiao for you. "If a fapiao is needed, then the freelancer should go to the local tax bureau to ask a tax official to issue a fapiao for him or her. The freelancer must bring the service agreement to the local tax bureau. With that, tax officials will judge what kind of taxes are to be levied, the individual income tax and VAT or business tax. Whether VAT or business tax is levied depends on the kind of services provided. Please note that if the service income is no more than 20,000rmb per month or 500rmb per payment, no VAT or business tax should be levied." 4. Freelancers are eligible for certain tax deductions. "Basically, there are two taxes involved. One is the individual income tax. This depends on the income received each month. It’s progressive, from 20% to 40%. Depending on the monthly taxable income, if your monthly taxable income is up to 20,000rmb, then the tax rate is 20%. If the income is about 50,000rmb, then the tax rate is 40%. Of course, the freelancers are entitled to a statuary deduction—800rmb each time, if the gross income is below 4,000rmb. This amount stays the same whether it’s paid on a project basis or per month. If it’s higher than that, then the deduction is 20%." 5. If you need a long-term solution and want to do things by the book, then you’ll want to look into registering as a Wholly Foreign Owned Enterprise [WFOE] or Joint Venture [JV]. "The options for obtaining fapiao are very limited for freelancers. The other way is to register as a WFOE or a JV. The WFOE or JV can raise Fapiaos. Under this option, the WOFE or JV hires or engages freelancers to provide services. The WFOE invoices the clients or customers. Of course, the WFOE will still need to pay freelancers service fees and withhold taxes from the payments." 6. Giving clients invoices issued by Hong Kong or Taiwan companies isn't a viable alternative. "If payments are made to the Hong Kong or Taiwan company, the tax procedures can be quite complicated. If payments are made to freelancers, invoices from the HK or Taiwan company will not match the payments and cannot be used for tax deduction." 7. Remember that if you plan to continue as a freelancer in China, you’ll need the Z visa. "If you want to follow the regulations strictly, then a Z visa should be applied for if you want to work in China for 3 months or more. Only a Z visa is eligible for working in China, for freelance and full-time. There are some practical difficulties, because freelancers do not have employment in China but in order to apply for a Z visa, you need to have an employment contract to show them. Some foreigners obtain X (student) visas to stay in the country legally, putting in the minimum hours as a student as they pursue professional freelance work. Others obtain a Z visa by working part-time in other foreigner-friendly jobs like English teaching posts, then doing freelance work on the side for additional income." Editor’s Note: Read more CH Tips on getting a visa for long-terms stays in China on this page. 8. Know the consequences of getting caught working without paying income taxes. "According to tax regulations, if you fail to pay taxes, then tax officials can ask you to pay a penalty in addition to the back pay in tax. The penalty ranges from 50% to 500% of the tax due. But, normally the tax official will not do that. In practice, a penalty payment of 50% is already harsh enough and is rarely administered. More often, they will just ask you to pay the interest for late payments. The interest rate is 0.05% for each day. [For those worried about visa status], tax officials do not have the right to revoke a visa. And they do not care about whether you are working in China with or without a Z visa as long as taxes are properly paid." *Editor’s Note: The website that lists the city’s tax bureau locations is all in Chinese, so here are a few in central Shanghai: 188 Hongqiao Lu, Xuhui 徐汇区虹桥路188号 Tel: 6441 8888 991 Changping Lu, Jing’an 静安区昌平路991号 Tel: 3217 4988 1827 Tianshan Lu, Changning 长宁区天山路1827号 Tel: 2220 8000 313 Xietu Lu, Huangpu 黄浦区斜土路313号 Tel: 6302 1008 80 Xiang Cheng Lu, Pudong 浦东新区向城路80号 Tel: 5058 1122 ***

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  • Worked to Death: Overtime in Shanghai

    By Cindy Kuan 13 July 2016 129176 views

    Is it possible to be worked to death in the white collar world? CH asks a medical practitioner, a lawyer, a life counselor and a former ad executive to weigh in with their professional insight.

    The recent death of a young Ogilvy and Mather employee in Beijing has sparked concerns in Chinese news media regarding the ethics of overtime work for white collar positions. The 24-year-old experienced a heart attack and died suddenly at his desk; it was later reported that he had been regularly working overtime for the entire past month, often until 11pm. While the connection between Li Yuan's OT work and death remains unproven, the stress of overworking is still a cause for serious concern and attention. CH talked to a few experts and an ad industry insider on the potential effects of high-stress overtime situations for those of us doing white collar work in China and asked: is death by overwork possible? The consensus: it's difficult to link the two, but it seems you people deserve a serious break. So, first off, what's it like working in this kind of high-pressure office environment?


    Vanessa* / former 4A Account Executive in Shanghai

    "It’s not just in advertising. Within creative industries, you see similar cases everywhere. I’ve heard of people passing out at their desks; I know someone whose husband passed away from a heart attack after meeting with clients. When I worked at a 4A agency, I had a lot of former colleagues who worked too much. I mean, 90 percent of them don’t even eat on time. It’s so common to forget to have lunch. I’d say that’s the biggest problem, really – not eating regular meals. So many of them had gastro-intestinal problems. I’ve even heard of someone throwing up blood while on the job. Of course, you can never really say that [the recent death at Ogilvy] was just caused by overworking. Creative people have a different kind of habit – they really like staying at the office late working, and doing some other non-work related stuff. Some people gave me the feeling that they didn’t even want to go home, like those who were sticking around to play online video games." "So it’s a bit unfair to say that longer hours at the office equals overwork and stress equals bad health. Of course there’s pressure from management, but in Shanghai, a lot of people are willing to work on weekends. Management might expect a two to three day turnaround time, but some people like the fast-paced nature, the glamour of the job." But what are the potential hazards of pushing on?


    Ans Hooft / Life Coach and Stress Counselor

    Ans Hooft provides professional guidance for people who are burned out or have somehow lost their way. According to Hooft: "Stress in itself is not exactly a bad thing – we actually need it and thrive on it sometimes. It’s as soon as we feel that we no longer have control, then that’s when it becomes bad. We’re lucky that our bodies give us warning signs though. If you’re overworking yourself, you might be feeling very tired, have constant headaches, a cold that doesn’t go away, trouble sleeping, spotty vision, overreacting to small things. Most of my clients are working professionals, Westerners, who tend to be working too much. Work life in Shanghai is nearly 24 hours a day; a lot of people are on and off, on and off all the time. That is unhealthy. The body needs time to recover, so relax. Realize that your body needs time to recover and go home on time. Then you’ll be fresh for the next day. Switch off your phone, do something completely different when outside of the office – sports, yoga, a walk, whatever. And remember, drinking does not release stress in the long term, so do not rely on alcohol as a stress reliever. Work on your work-life balance. Friends are very important; spending time with loves ones is very good for relieving stress." Even then, a lot of people working in Shanghai simply adapt and learn to cope with the stress—but how do you know when it’s gotten out of hand?

    1. Overworked people are often dehydrated and skip meals—make sure you drink enough water and eat light, healthy meals on time. 2. Lack of focus creates susceptibility to injury – don’t lose your focus when doing basic things like crossing the road. 3. Get adequate sleep and exercise. 4. Deteriorating relationships – people show signs of apathy to those around them, resentment towards employer or avoidance of loved ones. Keep this risk in mind and put equal value or more on yourself and your family. 5. Stress management activities – yoga, meditation, taichi, even just going for a walk. Do anything to sort of switch the mind off of work for awhile, especially if you can get some “fresh” air and sunlight.

    Leslie Bottrell / General Practitioner

    Bottrell is a GP at American Medical Center. She says: "Expats are a relatively healthy population here, but we do often see the signs of stress and overwork – excessive weight, high blood pressure, lots of incidences of insomnia and so on. No one is immune from the effects of overworking – with the majority of our patients, what we see is a long term effect. Dropping dead at your desk is quite a rare case. When you’re talking long term, it’s more difficult to impress upon people the consequences. Like smokers, [overworked employees] don’t tend to think that far down the line. White collar workers tend to say to themselves 'I'll just work this hard for this one time,' then end up suddenly working at an unsustainable level." "How long someone can sustain high levels of stress and work -- that depends on the state of health before the job, if there’s a family history of conditions, their own lifestyles. But what we see is that those who do overwork tend to ignore symptoms. They don’t make time to go see the doctor for checkups, [or] they delay their treatment when something is bothering them. [Some physical signs of overworking are] fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pains, tightness in the chest, an increase in blood cortisol levels, which can lead to high blood pressure. People might also experience lowered immunity, become susceptible to infections—which tend to last longer. When someone’s whole focus is on work, there can be mental issues too, like feelings of depression, job insecurity or anxiety. We also see an increased likelihood of risk-taking: smoking often ties into the culture, as well as drinking. And in my practice, you might see an increase in STDs and physical injuries because people are not really caring for themselves, and are doing things without thinking or paying attention." And lastly, what are the legal limits of such incidences?


    Helen Li of TransAsia Lawyers

    Li is a partner at TransAsia Lawyers. The law firm specializes in commercial and corporate law and was named Chambers & Partners' "Law Firm of the Year" for employment law in China for 2010, 2011 and 2013 as well as China Law & Practice as "PRC Firm of the Year for Labor & Employment" in 2011 and 2012. "The working hours standard currently implemented nationwide is 8 hours a day (excluding time spent traveling to and from work, mealtimes and other rest periods), 40 hours per week [in total]… An employer that needs to extend its employees’ working hours due to production and operational requirements may arrange to do so, although generally not for more than 1 hour per day. In special circumstances requiring a further extension of working hours, employers may do so, provided that the employees' health is not affected and that the extended working hours do not exceed 3 hours per day, or 36 hours per month." If workers are only legally allowed to do a maximum of three hours overtime, why do we see people who are leaving their offices at say, 10-11pm – clearly more than the maximum? "For certain positions, it is possible for the company to adopt a non-fixed working hours system, but only with approval from the local labor bureau (ie, in Beijing, senior management personnel are exempt from such approval requirement). Under such a system, the company need not pay its employees for overtime nor is there a cap on the maximum number of working hours, subject to local laws. If foreign workers (which, for purposes of PRC employment law, includes residents from HKG, Macao and Taiwan) are employed directly by an entity registered within the territory of the PRC, then their employment relationship will be governed by PRC law. Accordingly, they are entitled to the same protection as Chinese employees. However, if a foreign worker (a) signed his/her employment contract with and established the employment relationship with an offshore entity; (b) is seconded to work in China for its subsidiaries; and (c) the parties have chosen a foreign law to govern the contract, then their employment relationship (including with respect to working hours) will be governed by applicable foreign law, not PRC law.] So, the overtime laws for Chinese workers don’t necessarily apply to foreigners." Is there any way for a worker to protect him/herself against over-exertion or exhaustion? "In China, if an employee’s death is determined by the relevant authority to be a work-related injury, then the work-related injury insurance fund and the employer must pay compensation to his/her family member. Determining whether an employee’s death is work-related requires analysis of various factors, including whether such injury occurred during working hours, within the work place and due to the performance of work duties. According to Article 15 (1) of the Work-Related Injury Insurance Regulations, if an employee dies during working hours or while on the job, or within 48 hours after obtaining emergency treatment for a disease, then the death will be deemed to be a work-related injury. Under current PRC employment law, there is no legal concept of 'death caused by over exertion/exhaustion', as there is no objective, legal standard for “over-exertion or exhaustion”. [Thus, it’s not definitive] whether a company is liable for an employee whose death is caused by over-exertion/exhaustion. Because under PRC law there is no concept of “death caused by over-exertion/exhaustion” and this type of dispute seldom happens in China, it’s hard to speak confidently about a worker’s chances for success." *** *Name partially withdrawn on request of interviewee. Editor's note: This article first appeared on CreativeHunt on May 30, 2013. We're rescuing it from the archives and chucking it back into the rotation because we feel you might find the information useful and relevant. We've re-checked and confirmed the logistical details contained herein. From the CH vaults, this one's aged like fine wine...

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