Staff at a hotpot restaurant in northeast China’s Liaoning province were spotted kowtowing to their manager on Wednesday and thanking him for giving them their jobs.

Kowtowing staff. Photo: Sina.

Dozens of employees assembled on the intersection of Jianshe Road and Aigong Street in provincial capital Shenyang for what web users have described as a “feudal” ceremony, kneeling on the ground, knocking their heads against the street and yelling, “Thank you, manager, for giving us work!”

Kowtowing staff. Photo: Sina.
Kowtowing staff. Photo: Sina.

A psychologist consulted by mainland media suggested that the act “could result on shame, fear and anxiety on the part of employees,” while a legal professional said that “trampled on workers’ rights.”

According to restaurant management, however, they were merely fostering “a culture of thanksgiving within the company culture.”

Liu Xiaonan, a researchers as the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, said that the boss’s explanation is “far-fetched.”

“Ancient means” such as the kowtow “do not suit a modern business,” Liu said, adding that “real corporate culture means mutual respect and positively motivating employees.”

Ryan Ho Kilpatrick

Ryan Ho Kilpatrick is an award-winning journalist and scholar from Hong Kong who has reported on the city’s politics, protests, and policing for The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, TIME, The Guardian, The Independent, and others