Didi suspends ride-sharing service after rape and murder incident

Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing said it would suspend Didi Hitch - a service which allows passengers travelling in the same direction to share the cost of the trip - beginning midnight on Aug 27, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE) - Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing said yesterday it would suspend its ride-sharing Hitch service after the rape and murder of a passenger, the second such killing this year.

Police have arrested a 27-year-old man who worked as a driver in the eastern city of Wenzhou on suspicion of raping and killing a female passenger who used the app to hail a ride. The company said it would suspend Didi Hitch - a service which pairs up commuters travelling in the same direction - from midnight today.

The announcement came a day after the company admitted it bore "responsibility" for the crime, failing to act on a complaint about the same driver from another passenger, who claimed he drove her to an isolated area and followed her in his vehicle after she left the car.

"The incident shows the many deficiencies with our customer service processes, especially the failure to act swiftly on the previous passenger's complaint and the cumbersome and rigid process of information sharing with the police," Didi said in a statement yesterday. "This is too high a cost to pay."

Didi said yesterday that the head of Didi Hitch and the vice-president of customer service have been "removed" from their positions. Local police said the driver, identified by the surname Zhong, picked up the 20-year-old victim around 1pm last Friday.

But she went missing an hour later after sending a friend a text message asking for help, prompting a manhunt which saw the driver arrested in the early hours of Saturday, police said.

The killing has sparked fresh criticism of Didi - which muscled Uber out of the Chinese market following a bruising battle - as angry users voiced concerns about the safety of using the service.

"Since the company can't regulate itself, get out of the market," wrote one user on the microblogging platform Weibo.

In a scathing commentary yesterday, the official Xinhua news agency pointed out that Didi has been slapped with over 1 million yuan (S$201,000) in fines over the past 10 months in Wenzhou alone.

"Despite repeated punishment, there has been recalcitrant behaviour and no change, a reflection of the company's indifference to safety and social responsibility," the commentary said, calling on Didi to be punished if it fails to put customer safety first.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 27, 2018, with the headline Didi suspends ride-sharing service after rape and murder incident. Subscribe