Overhaul needed at Didi after murder
Second killing in three months at China’s largest ride-hailing service highlights how technological convenience has made us more vulnerable
The recent rape and murder of a passenger by a driver in China’s largest ride-hailing service, the second case in three months, has been met with outrage. The incidents have not only highlighted how technological convenience has made us more vulnerable to the prey of criminals, but also exposed serious gaps in supervision by both the operator and authorities.
That it takes the loss of another life to prompt Didi Chuxing to halt its carpooling service is regrettable. The company, backed by Tencent, Baidu and Alibaba Group, the owner of the South China Morning Post, was criticised for making only slight changes after the murder of a flight attendant in Zhengzhou in May. Following the latest case involving a 20-year-old woman in Zhejiang, Didi admitted that it did not look into a complaint by another customer against the suspect just days ahead of the killing.
Whether the suspension of the company’s carpool service and the sacking of two top executives is punishment enough remains to be seen. The issue went viral on social media, with the news read and reposted nearly 1 billion times within days. The overwhelming response speaks volumes of the growing concern over the popular yet somehow vulnerable transport service on the mainland.
In a belated but correct move, the National Development and Reform Commission has pledged to root out dishonest behaviour in the transport industry. Provinces are required to form committees and draw up procedures to ensure passenger safety by Friday. Operators who fail to comply risk being blacklisted.
The real challenge lies in the management and supervision of one of China’s fastest expanding service industries. The convenience of the car-hailing platform to passengers means criminals may also exploit it. Didi had a record 7.4 billion rides for 450 million users last year. The turnover makes screening out the black sheep a daunting task, but efforts must be made.
Enhancing passenger safety is as much the prime responsibility of the operator as the regulator. Whether the public can continue to enjoy a convenient and safe travel service hinges on a timely overhaul of the industry.