Didi suspends carpool service after another female passenger is raped, murdered by driver

The day before the murder, another female passenger had filed a complaint against the driver for attempting to take her to a secluded area. Didi did not take any actions against the driver.

China’s leading ride-hailing service Didi Chuxing is facing widespread public outrage and scrutiny once again after another one of its drivers raped and killed a female passenger.

The 20-year-old woman surnamed Zhao was headed for a birthday party in the Zhejiang city of Wenzhou and had booked a ride through Didi’s “carpooling service.” Zhao got into the car at around 1 pm on Friday. About an hour later, she sent a series of WeChat messages to a friend, saying that the driver was taking her up an isolated mountain road and that she was frightened.

Her final messages read: “Help” and “Save me.”

However, it was not until early the next morning that police arrested the driver, a 27-year-old man from Sichuan surnamed Zhong, who confessed to raping and murdering Zhao before throwing her body off a cliff. Officers soon found the corpse in a mountainous area outside of town.

After investigation, it was revealed that before killing his victim, Zhong had forced Zhao to transfer 9,000 yuan ($1,320) over to him on WeChat. He had also altered the appearance of his license plate before picking her up, police said.

While Zhong did not have a previous criminal record, Didi has been forced to admit that an extremely concerning complaint had been filed against him the day before he murdered Zhao. The woman who made the complaint has come forward, alleging that, on Thursday, Zhong had attempted to drive her to the secluded area where he killed Zhao, but that she had managed to get away.

The woman had contacted Didi in hopes of getting Zhong’s license revoked, however, the company had not taken any actions.

It has also been reported that after receiving phone calls from Zhao’s friend, a Didi representative refused to give her any information about the driver or vehicle, telling her instead to “please wait patiently.” It was only four hours after Zhao sent out her urgent plea for help that the company finally provided the police with information.

This all comes only a few months after Didi implemented new security measures following the high-profile murder of another female passenger in Zhengzhou. In that case, a 21-year-old flight attendant had used Didi’s Hitch function to book a ride back to town from the city’s airport late at night. As the name suggests, Hitch is a hitchhiking feature which Didi offers that allows car owners to pick up passengers who happen to be going in their same direction in exchange for a bit of gas money.

The driver was using his father’s Didi account which had already received a prior sexual harassment complaint against it. He drove the woman to a secluded area where he raped her and stabbed her to death with a knife before jumping into a nearby river and drowning himself.

With a number of security loopholes, Didi’s Hitch feature had been widely criticized as a “disaster waiting to happen.” Hitch had allowed both drivers and passengers to create public profiles where others could leave ratings and reviews. Quickly, these profiles became a way for sleazy drivers to rate female riders based on their looks, tagging women as having “sexy legs” or “amazing bodies” with the women having no way of removing the inappropriate comments.

Following the grisly murder, Didi temporarily limited its Hitch service to only daytime hours and announced a range of changes aimed at ensuring the safety of female passengers. Of course, these changes appear to have done little good as Didi drivers have continued to molest female passengers, masturbating in front of them and watching porn with them in the car.

Citing Guangzhou’s Southern Weekly, the New York Times reports that at least 53 women have been raped or sexually harassed by Didi drivers in the past four years. Didi is the world’s largest ride-hailing service, claiming more than 30 million drivers, 550 million users, and 7.4 billion rides in 2017.

In response to this latest tragedy, Didi has announced that Hitch’s general manager and its vice president for customer services have both been removed from their positions while the system has been suspended nationwide for re-evaluation. In a statement, Didi said that the incident showed that there are a number of “deficiencies” in its customer service process, particularly their failure to act quickly on the complaint filed by a previous passenger and to provide the police with information in an efficient and timely manner.

“This is too high of a cost to pay,” the company said.

And, apparently, Chinese officials agree. Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Public Security officials summoned Didi executives for meetings on Sunday in Beijing and Tianjin, demandinga “comprehensive rectification” of its carpooling services in order to ensure that the safety of passengers is the company’s “bottom line.”

Authorities said that Didi bears “unshirkable responsibility” in the passenger’s death. The company has already and apologized and said that it will compensate the woman’s family.