Didi under fire for sex assault, murder cases

By Deng Xiaoci Source:Global Times Published: 2018/8/28 23:08:45

Top executives of Didi Chuxing, China's ride-hailing service, released an apology on Tuesday night, vowing to cooperate with public security authorities to protect passengers' safety after the company came under fire as two women were raped and murdered by Didi drivers.

"Words are useless in the face of loss of a life. But we still wish to say sorry to the victim, her family, and everyone. We are sorry; we failed your expectations… Didi has decided to indefinitely suspend Didi Hitch services… The business model of Hitch will be thoroughly reevaluated. Hitch will be suspended indefinitely until there is a safety protection mechanism that is accepted by our users," read a joint letter signed by Cheng Wei, founder and CEO of Didi Chuxing and Liu Qing, president of Didi, on Tuesday.

Didi will also work with public security authorities on building mechanisms to protect passengers' safety, according to the Tuesday apology.

The company has come under fire after drivers of Didi reportedly committed at least 15 sexual assaults over the past three years, including two recent cases of rape and murder, Chinese media reported.

Chinese observers on Tuesday urged the firm to immediately rectify its management flaws, and called for the suspension of an app function with strong sexual undertones.

Citing court records from a website run by the Supreme People's Court, the Nanjing-based Modern Express reported on Monday that Didi drivers have been involved in 15 sexual offenses since 2016, with the youngest victim being only 10 years old. 

Five of the cases follow a pattern where the Didi Hitch drivers would access customers' contact information, such as WeChat and mobile phone number during their offline service, before they attack their victim on the scheduled pick-up date, the article said.

The report came after a 20-year-old woman took a Didi Hitch service car on Friday afternoon in Yueqing, East China's Zhejiang Province. She sent an SOS message to her friends around 2 pm before losing contact. Information of the murder suspect - a 27-year-old Didi driver - was not given to the local police until four hours later.

It was the second rape and murder case involving a Didi driver in the past three months, after a 21-year-old female flight attendant was fatally stabbed in May in Zhengzhou, capital of Central China's Henan Province.

Public outrage intensified over the two most recent cases, with many Chinese internet users accusing the social function secretly carried by the Didi car-pooling service with strong sexual undertones of being abused by malicious drivers.

"Didi is essentially helping perverts hook up with ladies using their private cars," wrote a Weibo user on Tuesday. "Whoever developed the social function for Didi is a pimp," wrote another.

Huang Jieli, the former general manager of the Didi Hitch department who was removed after the Friday incident, said in a 2015 interview that the company's car-pooling service was meant to create a very "futuristic and sexy" situation for the private car drivers and customers.

Zhu Wei, a professor at the China University of Political Science and Law, told the Global Times that although most e-commerce apps have become more social, it is wrong to apply it to the Didi Hitch service.

"Such social activities in a private ride at high speed, which is under the driver's absolute control, threatens the passenger's safety and should be immediately shut down," Zhu noted.

The company should provide an emergency button linked to the police. And before the company settles complaints, the driver should not be allowed to pick up others, Zhu noted.

The Chinese public also criticized the app's comments function, which has become a sharing channel for drivers to tag attractive passengers.

Police also arrested a Wuhan Didi Hitch driver surnamed Shen, 29, on Monday for making similar vulgar comments about the Yueqing victim.

Didi Chuxing announced on Sunday the suspension of its Hitch service.

Didi had a 63 percent active user rate from 2017 to 2018, ranking first among car-hailing service platforms, according to a report released by industry consultancy iiMedia.

Posted in: SOCIETY

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