BY SILVI WRITER
A second rape and killing tragedy in three months involving a 20-year-old woman passenger using Didi Chuxing’s ride-hitching service, Didi Hitch, in China may cast doubts on the Chinese company’s aggressive overseas expansion.
The new tragedy, happened on Aug 24 in the eastern Chinese city of Wenzhou, has placed the China’s largest car-hailing platform back under scrutiny, after stepped-up security measures failed to prevent the death.
Only less than a week ago, Didi had been named to the 2018 Fortune Change the World List, an annual ranking of the top companies that make a positive social impact as part of their core business strategy.
Observers said security measures failed mainly because the Chinese government has been reluctant to limit the operation of Didi, for the biggest ride-sharing firm globally by number of trips has created huge amount of job opportunities.
Between June 2016 and June 2017, a total of 21.078 million car owners and drivers were active on and generating income from four of Didi’s core personal mobility services, together accounting for 6.2 percent of employment opportunities in China’s tertiary industry in 2016, according to the company website.
The company employs around 3.9 million military veterans as drivers, according to a report co-authored by Didi and the China Veterans Employment and Entrepreneurship Service Association.
But the government may have to respond with tougher measures to limit Didi as the latest tragedy has sparked wider outrage in China.
Despite a company statement which was released on Sunday to suspend its Hitch services nationwide on Aug 26, the tragedy has also triggered wide criticism from international media outlets, some from Didi’s targeted overseas markets.
This series of violent crime have fueled safety concerns about the service, and cast doubt on Didi’s aggressive expansion plan in different continents.
“The fact that Didi has a driver safety and security issue is a real problem for Didi … and an opportunity for new service providers who can better serve the mobility demand,” said Bill Russo, CEO of Automobility Limited, a Shanghai-based consultancy, told Reuters.
Didi – which has been valued at $50 billion and counts SoftBank Group Corp as a major investor – is aggressively expanding overseas, targeting new markets in Mexico, Brazil and Australia, going head-to-head with Uber. In 2016, it acquired Uber’s China business.
Many other foreign media, including famous brands like Bloomberg, the Japan Times, the South China Morning Post, Singapore’s Straits Times, Nine News of Australia, and etc., have covered the tragedy.
Police in Wenzhou said they caught the suspect, a 27-year-old driver surnamed Zhong, at about 4am on Aug 25. They said Zhong confessed, and that the victim’s body had been recovered and an investigation was continuing.
The latest tragedy took place as Didi has been stepping up safety measures including for its carpooling service, after the murder of a flight attendant in May in central China’s Henan province.
But compared to the Henan incident, which happened in a mid-night, the latest tragedy took place in the afternoon, and has sparked wider outrage.
It has said the Hitch carpooling service has served over 1 billion trips in the past three years.