Chinese Ride-Sharing App Halts Service After Rape, Murder Case

Didi Chuxing's Hitch app is shut down after the murder of a woman for the second time this year.

A Didi sign promoting its Hitch service is shown in Beijing, Jan. 24, 2018.

The Chinese ride-sharing service Didi Chuxing has suspended its car-pooling app Hitch after a woman was raped and killed by a driver.

The service, which delivered more than one billion trips over the past three years, was suspended from Monday while it reviewed "mistakes" in its business model.

"The incident shows the many deficiencies with our customer service processes, especially in the failure to act swiftly on [a] previous passenger's complaint and the cumbersome and rigid process of information sharing with the police," the company said in a statement over the weekend.

Reuters reported that Hitch's general manager Huang Jieli and vice president for customer services Huang Jinhong have been removed from their posts.

The key suspect in the rape-and-murder case in the eastern city of Wenzhou on Friday had no prior criminal record, had provided the right documents, and had passed a facial recognition test before starting to take calls from users, the company said.

Hitch has already been suspended once before after the murder of a woman who booked it for a trip in May.

And an unconfirmed social media post retweeted by the MeToo China Twitter account on Monday accused Didi Chuxing of covering up earlier, unreported rape cases by paying off victims' families and asking them to sign nondisclosure agreements.

The company is no stranger to public anger, and has already been slammed over a "socialization" feature on the app enabling users to comment on the looks of female passengers, some of whom were tagged as "pretty girl" by drivers.

The company later redesigned the app to exclude personalized tagging and profiles, and introduced facial-recognition scanning on all drivers before they could start taking jobs.

Not enough checks

Rights activist Yu Yunfeng said there currently aren't enough checks by the company or the authorities to ensure that drivers using such apps are the right kind of person.

"The number of years' experience of driving a person has, whether they drink to excess ... whether they have done something bad in the past; all this can tell us whether they are fit to do this job," Yu said.

"This is very important."

Wenzhou police said in a statement that their first two requests for the identifying details of the driver and car involved in the case met with requests for more information and documentation, wasting around
92 minutes after the woman first raised the alarm.

Veteran journalist Zhu Xinxin said the authorities have failed to take seriously the possibility of such crimes.

"Law enforcement agencies don't take this seriously enough," Zhu said. "As well as solving this case, most importantly they need to act quickly to close any loopholes [that would enable such things to happen again]."

"They need to look at what parts of a person's journey aren't subject to monitoring and make every possible preparation to manage this," he said. "Fundamentally, it is the law enforcement agencies who are responsible for this."

Current affairs commentator Cao Jingxing agreed.

"Actually, it's the government that isn't doing its job here," Cao wrote via the social media platform Sina Weibo. "They knew very well that there are huge risks attached to Didi ride-sharing and security loopholes, but they didn't want to boost regulation."

"This is the main reason behind the repeated murder cases linked to Didi."

Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.