Didi Chuxing, China’s answer to Uber, is in crisis after reports of a second woman passenger murdered in only three months.
Over the weekend, the company again suspended its controversial service in the wake of a storm of criticism.
The announcement came after a 20-year-old female passenger surnamed Zhao was raped and killed by an unregistered Didi driver in Yueqing, China’s Zhejiang province, last Friday. The victim sent a text message to friends crying for help, according to a statement posted on Weibo by the Yueping police, but Didi reportedly failed to provide information to the police about the driver until several hours later.
China’s police and transport ministry slammed Didi for failing to live up to its responsibilities. Didi later issued a statement, saying “we are deeply sorry. We fell short of your expectations, and we feel undeniably responsible.”
However this was not enough to prevent public outrage, and nearly one million posts on the tragedy appeared on news and microblog websites. A Hangzhou daily asked in its front-page headline: “Hands on heart, how many times have you screwed up?”
The incident highlighted once more how Didi is unable to ensure the safety of female passengers using its carpool service. In May, a 21-year-old flight attendant, was raped and killed in Zhengzhou in an incident that also involved a Didi driver.
Despite Didi’s efforts to revamp its service by offering features such as same sex carpooling and mandatory facial recognition scanning for all drivers on its platform, it failed to prevent a similar tragedy from happening again.
After the first murder in May, Didi immediately suspended carpooling service for one month. But the second case in Zhejiang involved a driver who was not registered, raising questions about how seriously Didi is tackling the thorny issue.
Failing to come up with a reasonable plan to resume the service could seriously hurt Didi, which originally planned a Hong Kong stock market listing for this year. The listing, which aims to raise US$20 billion, is now expected to be delayed until the second half of next year.
China’s answer to Uber, Didi claims to have served more than 450 million customers and to provide 25 million passenger rides every day.