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Didi halts hitch service, sacks officials

Writer:   |  Editor: Lily A  |  From:   |  Updated: 2018-08-27

Didi Chuxing, the nation’s largest online car-hailing platform, will halt its hitch services across the country starting today after a female rider was raped and killed by a Didi driver in Zhejiang.

Effective from midnight Aug. 27, it will suspend its Didi Hitch nationwide and re-evaluate its business model and service logic, it said in a statement yesterday.

The announcement came a day after the company admitted it bore “responsibility” for the crime, failing to act on a complaint about the same driver from another passenger, who claimed he drove her to an isolated area and followed her in his vehicle after she left the car.

The company also dismissed Huang Jieli, general manager for the Hitch business, and Huang Jinhong, vice-president for client services, from their duties, the statement said.

“The incident shows the many deficiencies with our customer service processes, especially the failure to act swiftly on the previous passenger’s complaint and the cumbersome and rigid process of information sharing with the police,” Didi said in the statement.

“This is too high a cost to pay.”

Local police said the driver, identified by the surname Chung, picked up the 20-year-old victim around 1:00 p.m. Friday.

But she went missing an hour later after sending a friend a text message asking for help, prompting a manhunt which saw the driver arrested in the early hours of Saturday, police said.

In a commentary, Xinhua news agency yesterday pointed out that Didi has been slapped with over 1 million yuan (US$148,000) in fines over the past 10 months in Wenzhou alone.

“Despite repeated punishment, there has been recalcitrant behavior and no change, a reflection of the company’s indifference to safety and social responsibility,” the commentary said, calling on Didi to be punished if it fails to put customer safety first.

The Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Public Security and related agencies in Tianjin Municipality, where Didi Chuxing is registered, yesterday summoned senior executives of Didi Chuxing for a face-to-face meeting and ordered the company to rectify problems with its online hitch riding services, enhance security measures and release timely updates of its progress to correct the situation with the public.

In May, a 21-year-old air stewardess using the same Hitch service was killed by a Didi Chuxing driver, prompting criticism of the company’s security measures and a tightening of its rules of use.

This included limiting Hitch drivers to only picking up members of the same sex late at night and early in the morning, and enabling passengers to share their route with an emergency contact.