Rape and murder of a Didi passenger expose app’s flaws

By Wang Han Source:Global Times Published: 2018/5/16 18:33:04

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

 

A 21-year-old Chinese female flight attendant surnamed Li was raped and then stabbed to death after hailing a private car from ride-share platform Didi Chuxing on the evening of May 5 in Zhengzhou, capital of Central China's Henan Province.

Didi offered a reward of up to one million yuan ($157,000)for clues about the suspect, a driver surnamed Liu, according to media reports. But on May 12, Zhengzhou police found a corpse in a river later confirmed to be Liu, thepaper.cn reported.

Even though the suspect is dead, public condemnation of Didi's lack of security and safety measures has continued. One blogger posted on Weibo that her colleague was also harassed by Liu. The blogger said her colleague made a telephone complaint to Didi, but the platform would not punish Liu, which she feels might have prevented the Li's death.

Many netizens claim that Didi does not strictly examine the backgrounds of car owners who apply to be Didi drivers. According to media reports, Liu once committed a severe traffic offense that resulted in a pedestrian becoming paralyzed.

Following the uproar about Li's brutal rape and death, Didi announced a nationwide one-week suspension of its hitch service. I'm glad to hear this, as I too have encountered some trouble with Didi drivers.

Back in February, I was hanging out with my friend Sara, her boyfriend John and their pet dog at a tourist spot in Hangzhou, capital of East China's Zhejiang Province. Upon leaving, I hailed a driver using Didi.

But the driver refused to allow their dog to get into his car. John slammed the car door to show his dissatisfaction. The driver cursed at him, so John went up and pushed him. The driver then claimed that he would call a group of friends to "beat us to death."

While the driver was on his phone calling his gang, I called 110 and explained the situation to the police. Fortunately, the police arrived before the driver's gang could. After John went to the police station with the driver, John found out that the driver was a "frequent visitor" of police stations.

Another thing that worries me is that sometimes the license plate number of the car I book via Didi is not the same as that of the car that picks me up. This means that the driver's information - including possible criminal or traffic offense records - was not checked, which poses severe safety risks to all passengers.

Will I continue using Didi? The answer is a reluctant yes, because it is still the largest car-hailing service platform in China. But do I expect Didi to launch new, effective measures to improve the safety and security of its passengers? Who knows.

The platform could, if they really wanted, upload a new function that requires passengers to press a "safely arrived" button before transferring their payment to Didi. Also, the platform could use better technology to exam the backgrounds of its drivers, which would lower the risk of allowing untrustworthy individuals to get into the industry.

Ride-hailing services in China, just like those in other countries, have their share of safety and security related issues. The only thing that will really make a difference is for the platforms themselves to enact new, strict measures to prevent such tragedies from happening again.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.

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