Updated: 50 cases in four years: Didi’s latest scandal is just tip of the iceberg

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Updated 10:45 am 29 August 2018: Didi CEO Cheng Wei and president Liu Qing have issued an official apology to the public on August 28. The post is updated to include the information.

Didi’s latest scandal involving the death of a 21-year old girl murdered by her Didi Hitch driver put the China ride-sharing giant under severe public scrutiny. An investigation by local media shows deeper problems.

Over the past four years, at least 50 sexual harassment and assault incidents by Didi drivers were reported by local media and relevant authorities, according to a report by local media Southern Weekly. Of the 50 drivers, at least 3 of them have previous criminal records, but they managed to pass Didi’s driver identity check procedure. All of the 53 victims are female and seven of them were drunk at the time of the incident, the report added. Beijing, Jiangsu, Guangdong, and Zhejiang are the areas that recorded the most cases.

TechNode has reached out to Didi for comment and will update accordingly.

Geographical distribution of Didi’s assault cases (Image credit: Southern Weekly)

Although Didi’s safety problem first drew widespread public outrage when a 21-year-old flight attendant was raped and murdered in May this year, a former fatality that involves the death of a 30-year-old passenger could be dated back one year earlier to May 2017.

Regardless of its efforts, Didi’s security risks still run deep. Company CEO and Funder Chen Wei said in Didi’s annual meeting held on February this year that safety is Didi’s top priority and the rates of security incidents have dropped 21%. Cheng’s exclamation is controverted shortly as Didi investor Zhang Huan calls for stricter regulation after a Didi driver assaulted him.

In addition to public ire, local authorities have joined to push the Chinese ride sharing giant to react in a more responsible way. China’s Ministry of Transportation published a commentary article, lambasting Didi for its failure to offer effective preventive measures as well as urgent help during the incident, and only try to solve the problem with pricy settlements. The article further pointed out it’s important to discuss whether Didi’s executives should take legal responsibility in cases like this. Xinhua News also suggested Didi should face legal repercussions if it doesn’t improve its safety record.

Following last week’s murder, Didi fired two executives: the general manager for Hitch and the company’s vice president of customer services. But neither CEO Cheng Wei nor president Liu Qing has extended a personal apology to the public after the repeated tragedies.

[Update] “We see clearly this is because our vanity overtook our original beliefs. We raced non stop riding on the force of breathless expansion and capital through these few years, but this has no meaning in such a tragic loss of life. Throughout the company, we start to question if we are doing the right thing; or even whether we have the right values. There is an enormous amount of self-doubt, guilt and soul-searching.” said Cheng and Liu in an apology released on August 28.

The incidents may put a dent in the valuation of the company, which is rumored to head for an IPO in the second half of 2018. The tech giant recieved $4 billion funding at $50 billion valuation in December last year.