China’s leading ride-hailing company, Didi Chuxing, has suspended their carpooling service Hitch after it was found that a female passenger was raped and killed by a driver. This is the second such violent incident against women using Hitch and has put the company under intense pressure to find adequate solutions to guarantee the safety of their female passengers.
The incident took place on August 24. A 20-year-old woman had hired a car from the city of Wenzhou. The driver of the car has been identified only as Zhong, a 27-year-old resident. The woman reportedly sent a message for help to one of her friends about an hour after entering the vehicle. However, she soon lost contact.
When police arrested Zhong the next day, he confessed to having raped and killed her. The authorities later recovered the victim’s body, and they are in the middle of a detailed investigation.
The incident sparked widespread outrage on social media. This has been the second such incident in China. In May this year, a 21-year-old flight attendant was also brutally murdered by the driver of the vehicle. Didi then suspended the Hitch service for about a week.
With the second incident triggering anger against the company’s inability to guarantee the safety of its female passengers, Didi has once again suspended the Hitch service. The company will reportedly only reactivate Hitch once the security measures are updated and strengthened. Hitch’s vice president was fired by Didi following the incident.
Meanwhile, the transportation ministry has made a strong statement against Didi, asking the company to take effective measures to protect their passengers.
“These two vicious incidents that have violated the life and safety of passengers has [have] exposed the gaping operational loopholes of the Didi Chuxing platform. The Ministry demands that Didi… stops making empty promises and takes concrete steps to ensuring passengers’ safety,” BBC quotes the country’s transportation ministry.
In addition to the issue of the safety of female travelers, Didi is also facing another big problem — fare manipulation. The drivers are reportedly using several illegal apps that increase the fares arbitrarily and even allow other drivers to intercept ride requests.
“I saw the [calculated] fare on the system to be 12 yuan ($1.76). But when I got off, the fare became 22 yuan ($3.23). I asked the driver why there was such a huge difference, but he told me that’s what the system said. I remember the driver did not take a detour [to reach my destination]. So he could have used an app [to increase] the fare,” The Epoch Times quotes a resident from Linzhou.
An investigation by a local newspaper found that the illegal apps were being sold for cheap rates that went as low as US$44. Those who sold the expensive version of the apps guaranteed that Didi would not be able to detect any fare manipulation.
With such mounting problems of passenger safety and fare manipulation, the Chinese government has announced that it will reform the transportation industry. Provinces have been instructed to set up passenger safety committees to investigate safety-related incidents. The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has stated that it will introduce new policies that will remove dishonest operators in the transportation industry.