China’s Didi suspends Hitch carpool service after the murder of a female passenger

Image: Didi Chuxing

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On Friday, a driver for Didi Chuxing’s ride-share service Hitch killed a 20-year-old female passenger in the Chinese city of Wenzhou. Following the incident, the company says that it will suspend the ride-hailing service while the company examines its practices.

This is the second such death associated with the app this year. In May, a driver raped and murdered his 21-year-old passenger in Henan province, using his father’s account, which prompted the company to suspend its service for six weeks as it made some changes. Female riders had complained that drivers often left inappropriate comments on their profiles after using the service, and the company implemented an emergency button, late-night restrictions, and new verification methods, including facial recognition, to “minimize the risk of unapproved account use.”

This latest incident demonstrates that those new measures weren’t enough. The company says that the while the suspect — identified as Zhong — had no criminal record, submitted his driver’s license and vehicle identification, and passed the new mandated facial recognition test, he was the subject of prior complaints. On Thursday, a female passenger reported him to the company when he asked her to sit in the front seat with him, drove her to an isolated location, and attempted to follow her.

On Friday, Zhong “physically altered the appearance of his number plate,” before picking up his victim, according to the South China Morning Post. The passenger sent out a message to her friends asking for help prior to her murder, but more than 14 hours elapsed before local authorities arrested Zhong. The South China Morning Post notes that while the company assisted the police, it told the family of the victim to file a report with the police when they asked for information about the driver.

TechCrunch reports that the company has suspended Hitch and fired its general manager and its customer services vice president, and it will begin an investigation into what happened, saying that 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. This is too high a cost to pay.”

Hitch is just one of several ride-share services run by Didi. It allows drivers to pick up passengers for free if they’re going in the same direction. This new suspension only affects Hitch; Didi’s other commercial ride-share services remain in operation.