The rape and murder of a 20-year-old female passenger have ignited public fury in the latest crisis facing Didi – the biggest ride-sharing company in China which is under fire again for lax security measures of its carpooling service.
The biggest ride-sharing firm globally – by number of trips – announced on Sunday that it will suspend its carpooling service nationwide with effect from next Monday.
On Sunday afternoon, China’s Ministry of Transportation joined hands with the Ministry of Public Security, as well as the Traffic and Transportation Departments of Beijing and Tianjin, interviewing with Didi and ordering a comprehensive rectification of its carpooling service immediately.
It has also laid off two senior management employees while the investigation of the crime continues.
A 20-year-old female passenger surnamed Zhao was murdered while using Didi's carpooling service. (Photo: Screenshot via Weibo)
The decision was announced after the company was ordered by traffic authorities in east China's Zhejiang Province, where the incident occurred, to suspend its regional carpooling service on August 25, a day after the female passenger went missing.
The body of the woman, surnamed Zhao, was found on August 25 by police in Yueqing City, Zhejiang.
Police said the Didi driver, surnamed Zhong, was arrested on August 25 around 4 a.m. and admitted that he raped and killed Zhao on August 24 around 2:50 p.m. She got into his car around 1 p.m., according to her friend who reported the case.
The Didi driver was arrested by local police in Yueqing City at 4 a.m. on August 25 , according to the police statement. (Photo: Screenshot via Weibo)
Police said their investigations showed that Didi had allegedly dismissed a number of pleas and inquiries made by the victim's family and friends as well as by police who requested the driver's information as the case was immediately reported by the victim’s friend who received a message alert from the 20-year-old before she went missing, according to CCTV News.
The driver, 27-year-old Zhong, was described as "quiet" by family members, thepaper reports. (Photo: Screenshot via Weibo)
The company apologized in a statement on August 25 on Weibo, saying it's “immensely saddened by the tragedy,” and holds “undeniable” responsibility for the latest tragedy.
It said that it would offer a minimum of three times the usual financial compensation to the victim’s family.
"We are deeply sorry. We fell short of your expectations. We can’t and we won’t shirk from our responsibilities," said the statement which has drawn almost 400,000 comments on Weibo.
Didi's first statement released on Saturday, August 25 has been commented almost 400,000 times on Weibo. (Photo: Screenshot via Weibo)
Didi also explained that it was unable to authenticate requests to verify users’ information, and could only share that information with law enforcement agencies with the users' consent.
However, it admitted liability for not following up with a complaint made by a former female rider against the same driver – just within 24 hours before the incident occurred.
The former passenger, who asked on Weibo not to be interviewed by the press, claimed the driver asked her to sit in the front seat, drove the car into a remote area and attempted to follow her for a time after she managed to get out. She expressed frustration at Didi's inaction in her post.
A former female rider detailed similar interaction with the same driver on social media. (Photo: Screenshot via Weibo)
The arrested driver had passed background checks and had no prior criminal record, according to Didi.
He had registered with the company using his authentic ID, driver license and vehicle registration certificate.
However, the license plate of the vehicle for the latest incident was forged, Didi found.
The latest case comes just three months after a tragedy that sparked widespread community outrage when a young flight attendant was raped and murdered by a driver with Didi's carpooling service.
That incident had prompted Didi to revamp its security measures, one of which was mandatory facial-recognition scanning for drivers to prevent them from using unauthorized accounts.