BEIJING, Nov 20 – A media company in central China has denied responsibility for the death of a college student who died after pulling five all-nighters in a row livestreaming for the company, according to news outlet ThePaper.cn.
The student, surnamed Li, was a final-year student at Henan’s Pingdingshan Vocational and Technical College. He was working as an online game streamer for Henan Qinyi Culture and Media Co. as part of an internship to complete his curriculum requirements before he could graduate in June next year.
Li died on Nov 10 in his rented house in Zhengzhou, Henan province. His roommates said they found he breathed rapidly during sleep and unresponsive, so they called an ambulance. Li was pronounced dead at the hospital.
According to a “cooperation agreement” provided by Li’s father, Li was required to livestream for 240 hours in 26 days and upload 15 short videos each month in order to earn a minimum salary of 3,000 yuan ($420). Livestream records show that Li had worked on the day shift since October, but moved to the night shift on Nov 5. He livestreamed from 9 pm to 6 am for five nights in a row before his death.
Li’s father said that Li told him the company persuaded him to move to the night shift because of better tips and more earnings. However, Li had been reluctant to make the change.
The company denied the allegations. A legal representative surnamed Zhang said on Friday that according to the agreement, Li was allowed to choose the time and length of his livestreams at his own discretion. The company did not compel Li to move to the night shift.
Zhang also denied that Li was working as an intern for the company. “We provide the location and we take a commission from his tips, and it’s just a simple cooperation,” Zhang said. He added that the company was aware that Li was a college student, but that he was not conducting an internship and that the company would not be able to provide an internship certificate even if Li were to ask.
Zhang admitted that many livestreamers struggle to find a balance between earning an income and overworking. However, he maintained that the company was not responsible for Li’s death. He said that Li was not working as a formal employee or an intern, and that he died in his own rented house during off-hours.
The company offered Li’s family 5,000 yuan ($700) as compensation “out of humanitarianism,” but said that any further requests would have to go through legal channels.
Li’s father said that the school has offered help and legal assistance, and that he is applying for compensation through insurance companies. It is not clear if Li’s father will press charges against the company.
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