Didi Suspends Carpooling Service in China After 2nd Passenger Is Killed

Didi Suspends Carpooling Service in China After 2nd Passenger Is Killed

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BEIJING — Didi Chuxing, China’s popular ride-sharing service, fired two senior executives and suspended a car-pooling service after the second killing of a female passenger in three months.

The crime follows others that have raised questions about the company’s ability to protect women who use its services and comes at a fraught time for Didi, one of the world’s most successful start-ups. It has been expanding at a frenetic pace in China and around the world, and it is widely expected to raise billions of dollars should it seek to sell shares on public markets.

But a string of episodes in China has raised questions about its ability to protect women who use its services. Over the weekend, a number of consumers called online for a boycott of Didi’s services.

The passenger, surnamed Zhao, used Hitch, the Didi car-pooling service, in the eastern city of Wenzhou on Friday. That afternoon, the Wenzhou police said on Sunday, she was raped and stabbed in the neck. The driver was arrested on Saturday.

On social media, Chinese internet users roundly condemned Didi for being slow to react.

Since May, Chinese news outlets have widely cited several instances of violence and harassment. At least 53 women have been raped or sexually harassed by Didi drivers in the past four years, Southern Weekly, a newspaper based in Guangzhou, reported, citing news reports and court documents. Caixin, a weekly business publication, found at least 14 rape cases involving Didi, citing court documents.

Didi’s main business is similar to Uber’s. Its smaller Hitch service enabled private drivers to pick up passengers while on their daily commutes for a little extra money. Didi marketed Hitch as a way for riders to make friends, as well as a cheaper alternative to its other ride-hailing services.

Many features were abused. For example, the app allowed drivers to leave personalized tags and ratings of passengers on Didi Hitch. But female passengers noticed that some drivers used those features to comment on their looks.

Didi announced new measures to improve rider safety after the killing in May, saying it would overhaul its safety services. It said it would suspend the ability of drivers to leave personalized tags. The company said it would also suspend its Hitch service between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. each day.

In June, Didi resumed late night service but said it would not allow male drivers to pick up female passengers in the after-hours. The company said the move was designed to protect women, but it was criticized as being sexist and an inconvenience for female passengers, since most Chinese drivers are men.

Elsie Chen contributed research.

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