Didi Chuxing, operator of China’s largest ride-hailing platform, has reversed a decision to allow only male passengers to hail a late hitch ride after a public backlash over its decision to have different service cut-off times for men and women. The Hitch carpool service, which pairs private car owners with hitchhikers heading in the same direction and was expected to resume later this month after a year-long halt, will now operate between 5am and 8pm for all users, the company said in a statement on Thursday. The decision overturns an announcement on Wednesday when Didi said the operation time for male and female passengers would be different – with men being able to use the service until 11pm while for women it would end at 8pm. That prompted outrage on social media, with many women complaining that the tech company was restricting women’s freedoms. Some even called the different service time a “curfew” for women. “Women getting hurt only leads to women losing their freedom,” said one of the most liked comments on Weibo. “It shows we are living in a patriarchal society.” “I see. The problem is women are going out, not that men and companies have evil motives,” said another. China surpasses US as home to the world’s largest number of unicorns First launched in 2015, Hitch was once hailed as an energy-saving way of commuting before it was put on indefinite hold over safety concerns in August last year. That month, a Hitch driver was arrested by police and confessed to raping and killing a 20-year-old woman passenger in China’s eastern Zhejiang province. That tragedy came about three months after a 21-year-old flight attendant was raped and killed in central Henan province by a man using his father’s Didi account. Public scrutiny has focused on Didi’s promotion of Hitch as an alternative to social networking. The former head of Hitch, Huang Jieli, resigned and was criticised over an online media interview she gave in 2015, in which she described the service as a “very sexy scenario” for people to meet. According to Thursday’s statement, Hitch records showed that sex related complaints between 8pm and 11pm were 45 per cent higher than between 5am to 8pm. The Beijing-based company, which three years ago pushed Uber out of the country in exchange for a minority stake, apologised for its “inappropriate communication”, saying the original intention was to ensure a safe and good commuting experience for both drivers and passengers. “Faced with complications and safety issues for hitch rides, we did have shortcomings that seem thoughtless and lacking of better solutions for now,” said Didi. “We will keep improving the services and hear outside opinions.” New safety measures introduced over the past year include compulsory in-trip audio recording and a panic button linked directly to local police stations. Didi has also removed about 306,000 drivers from its platform since August last year, or one in every 100 registered drivers as of 2018, according to company statistics. Hitch drivers will face the same rigid background checks and verifications as other drivers on its platform, including multiple face-scans during long trips, according to the company. For more insights into China tech, sign up for our tech newsletters , subscribe to our Inside China Tech podcast , and download the comprehensive 2019 China Internet Report . Also roam China Tech City , an award-winning interactive digital map at our sister site Abacus .