The murder of a 24-year-old woman in Shenzhen has netizens wondering about the safety and future of ride-hailing apps in China.
A teacher surnamed Zhong booked a ride back to her dorm on Monday evening using a car-hailing app. However, by 10:15 p.m. that night, she hadn’t shown up, her dormmates tried calling her, but her phone was off, China Daily reports. Her worried husband tried to call the driver she had left with, but once again, there was no answer. So he called police instead.
By the next morning, Shenzhen police were able to track down the vehicle that Zhong had last been riding in and arrested the 24-year-old driver surnamed Pan. He confessed to police that on Monday evening, at around 9 p.m., he had picked up Zhong and drove her to an isolated area. Once there, he threatened her with a knife, robbed her and killed her.
While police did not name what ride-hailing app Pan was a driver for, local media reported that is was Didi Chuxing, China’s leading car-hailing service. On Weibo, the company confirmed reports that Pan was registered as one of their drivers; however, they added that the license plate on his car that night was different from the one that was registered with the company.
Since Tuesday, debate on Weibo has raged about how much Didi is to blame for Zhong’s tragic murder. Many netizens say that following the incident, they are swearing off using the service until the company puts stricter screening protocols in place.
“The whole registration and evaluation process is a concern for users,” said one Weibo user, via Sixth Tone. “I think we are sacrificing our lives when we use Didi’s service.”
Meanwhile, others speculate that the government will use this crime as an excuse to clamp down on car-hailing apps, which are constantly growing and displacing traditional taxis. This has led to strikes and protests in cities across China by angry cab drivers. While American-owned Uber has often been pressured by Chinese authorities, Didi has been left relatively untouched to grow into a thriving company that is worth at least $20 billion.
Still, this isn’t the first crime committed by a Didi driver, in an effort to get the company to tighten up its security protocols, the Shenzhen government released a report in March, stating that 1,425 drivers working for online platforms had a history of drug abuse, and 1,662 had serious criminal records. In April, Didi fired an undisclosed number of drivers because of their history with drugs and criminal records.
Last year, an Uber driver in Chengdu was arrested for robbing and molesting a female passenger. A couple of months before, a 21-year-old woman in Guangzhou was picked up after a night out, taken to a hotel room and raped. However, she wasn’t able to recall what car app she had used. In March of this year, a Didi driver in Wuhan was sentenced to eight years in prison for raping and robbing a female passenger.
However, this murder also comes at a particularly sensitive time. The hottest topic of discussion on Chinese social media last month was the violent attack and near-kidnapping of a woman at a Beijing hotel. Since then, videos have gone viral showing women standing up for themselves…
In the elevator:
On the bus:
And on the street: