BEIJING — Didi Chuxing, China’s wildly popular ride-sharing service, said on Wednesday that it would overhaul its app and its safety and security practices, after reports that a passenger had been raped and killed by her driver.
The passenger, Li Mingzhu, 21, a flight attendant, was found dead last Saturday after hailing a ride downtown from the airport in the northern Chinese city of Zhengzhou on May 6, according to state media. Didi Chuxing has faced a widening array of complaints from female passengers in recent days, as nationwide attention has focused on the company in the aftermath of the killing.
Didi Chuxing is similar to Uber, and indeed bought Uber’s business in China nearly two years ago. The Chinese company, which has been expanding at a breakneck pace within the country and around the world, says it has 450 million users. One of China’s most successful tech giants, it is expected to explore making a multibillion-dollar initial public offering this year.
Within China, Didi Chuxing offers several options, including an individual ride-hailing service and a cheaper car-pooling service, called Didi Hitch, which Ms. Li had used. Both drivers and passengers typically upload photographs of themselves to user profiles. In the wake of the killing, Didi Hitch customers raised concerns about drivers’ ability to append notes about them, many of which proved to focus on women’s appearances.
Su Shiya, 21, a student in southern China, examined her Didi profile and found that drivers had tagged her as an “intellectual beauty” and a “sweetheart.”
“These comments are open to all the Didi drivers,” she said. “They all know what I look like.” She said she found the comments chilling, and has since replaced her image with that of an animated dog.
Didi Chuxing suspended its Hitch service after the killing, and said on Wednesday that it would revamp the service. It said it would suspend the ability of drivers to leave personalized tags and ratings of passengers on Didi Hitch, and that all profile pictures of users would be replaced with a generic image.
Also, the Didi Hitch service will be suspended between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. each day, the company said, and drivers will be required to confirm their identities via facial recognition before each trip. Ms. Li was reportedly killed by a man using his father’s Didi driver account. Days later, the police said they had found the suspect’s body in a river in Zhengzhou.