Chinese tech billionaire Jack Ma once touted the pride in doing 12 hours of work and be part of the country's "996 work culture." It was actually a "blessing", he said, for people to have the privilege of working from 9 in the morning to 9 in the evening, six days a week.

But, China's labor officials are not comfortable with the set-up. In fact, they want the torturous work schedule changed because it is against the law.

A memo was recently released to put closure to these illegal practices China's labor ministry views contradictory to current laws in effect. More than 72 hours of work per week, the so-called "996" routine is now being questioned by the authorities.

Over the past years, several employee fatalities have been tied to such work schedules, which are a common practice in the tech industry and in other sectors, like construction and logistics.

According to China's Supreme People's Court and the Ministry of Human Resources, such working schedules pose a serious breach of the law on maximum working hours.

Under the country's labor law, employers may extend working hours after consulting with unions and workers, and based on production requirements and operations, but that extending working hours must not exceed one hour per day.

Discontent with the long work hours made headlines recently after a young woman collapsed on her way home and died after doing a string of excessively long shifts for a Chinese e-commerce company called Pinduoduo.

Many of the company's staff came forward following the incident to reveal they were asked to work more than 300 hours each month, far exceeding limits allowed by the government.

Recently, some leading tech firms have backed down after getting criticized by the Chinese society. The companies include Bytedance, Kuaishou and Lightspeed & Quantum.

China's labor laws specifically states that a standard work schedule is eight hours, with a maximum of 44 hours per week. Any work performed beyond that requires extra pay for overtime. But this policy has never been implemented.

Meanwhile, for many employees who are doing extended hours than ever in the wake of the global health crisis, enough was enough.

"I'm exhausted I can't remember when I last saw daylight," one user commented on microblogging platform Weibo.