Chinese ride-hailing company Shouqi apologized on Monday for a safety incident in which a woman exited a moving car in an alleged attempt to escape her driver. Police found the driver violated the official regulation governing the taxi sector in the region, but his actions did not amount to a criminal offense, according to a Monday statement. 

Why it matters: The incident became the talk of the Chinese internet over the weekend, prompting a widespread backlash against the state-backed ride-hailer and spurring a discussion on women’s safety in China. 

  • Ahead of the police report, Shouqi Limousine & Chauffeur (Shouqi Yueche) and the woman surnamed Gao released contradictory statements regarding the incident. Shouqi said the incident was caused by “miscommunication,” while the woman said she felt threatened by the driver. 

Details: Police in Hangzhou’s Fuyang district said the driver violated driver’s regulation in Hangzhou but he did not commit a criminal offense. The transportation department will determine the punishment for the driver and Shouqi. 

  • Police said the driver violated regulations by changing routes twice without getting Gao’s permission. The police said both the driver and Gao called the police after the incident. 
  • Police interviewed the driver and Gao, watched surveillance footage, and listened to recordings from the drive. Chinese ride-hailing companies regularly record rides for safety reasons. 
  • Police said the driver and Gao had several short exchanges and the two parties disagreed about route changes. 
  • Fuyang government officials set up a dedicated investigation team to look into the incident. The team includes members of the police and the transportation department, according to the police statement. 
  • Shouqi promised to offer more communication training to drivers in a Monday statement (in Chinese), released hours after the police statement. 
  • At the time of the publication, Gao has not made any new public statements. 
  • The incident happened on June 12. The public first heard of it over the weekend. 

Context: Shouqi is the latest ride-hailing company to become embroiled in controversy over safety issues. Despite efforts made by ride-hailers and lawmakers, such as mandating ride recordings and adding call-police functions into their apps, the public is still sensitive to the issue. 

  • In 2018, two women were murdered by their drivers during separate rides on China’s dominant ride-hailing platform Didi, forcing the company and other ride-hailers to suspend their carpooling services. When Didi resumed the service in November 2019, the company initially barred women from booking carpool rides after 8:00 p.m. for safety reasons. Didi quickly backtracked the decision and made carpool rides past 8:00 p.m. unavailable to all people after public outrage. 

Qin is the managing editor at TechNode. Previously, she was a reporter at the South China Morning Post's Inkstone. Before that, she worked in the United States for five years. She was a senior video producer...