Killing triggers rush for mobile app, but police question effectiveness
The founder and chief executive officer of ride-hailing company Didi Chuxing, Cheng Wei, and the company's president, Liu Qing, apologized on Tuesday on Didi's Sina Weibo account for any role it might have played in the death of a 20-year-old woman in Yueqing, Zhejiang Province, who was raped and killed by one of their drivers on Friday. It was the second such killing this year.
Didi will put passenger safety at the core value in the company's growth and development, rather than sheer size and profit, the statement said, adding that more emphasis will be placed on customer service.
The statement said Didi will re-evaluate its business model and service logic, and will deactivate its online "hitch" ride services indefinitely until such time as its security measures are accepted by the public.
Responding to the evidence collected by police investigators, Didi will cooperate with public security departments to build its security mechanism and will launch a system that will allow police to independently monitor Didi, it said.
An app called Public Security 110－which allows people to call the police via video－has become the most popular free download on Apple's Chinese app store after the rape and murder on Friday.
On Monday, prosecutors in Yueqing formally arrested Zhong Yuan, the suspect, and charged him with robbery, rape and intentional homicide. Police said the man confessed.
However, police have questioned the effectiveness of security apps.
"The new methods of calling police are still in trial use in some regions and are not available in all places. Remember to check if it has been put into use," local police in Zigong, Sichuan province, said on Monday.
According to the People's Public Security Newspaper, people can use Public Security 110 to quickly transmit images and their location directly to the police using a video call. Police officers can also speak directly to the victims or criminals if necessary.
The app was developed by the Hebei Public Security Department and is still undergoing testing, the department said on Tuesday.
Sending short messages to 12110 has been widely promoted online as a way to contact police, but the Henan Public Security Department said on toutiao.com on Monday that it is not using text messages to 12110 for emergency contacts and recommended that people call 110 for help.
As of Monday, government authorities in at least 10 cities have ordered Didi Chuxing's local branches to rectify problems with its online hitch services, which allow a customer to connect with a person heading in the same general direction. The requirements for Didi hitch drivers in the past have not been as strict as for its regular drivers.
The transportation management authority in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, asked Didi to connect its operational information and data to a national supervision platform for cars that are hailed online, and to ensure the quality and accuracy of the information.
The Guangzhou Municipal Public Security Bureau also asked Didi to strengthen its information sharing with the police, submit relevant information as soon as possible and cooperate with investigations and the collection of evidence.
Wang Fumin, deputy director of the Guangdong Department of Transportation, said the government might introduce a procedure to allow passengers to contact police more easily in emergencies.
In another development, two men have been taken into administrative custody－one in Wuhan, Hubei province, and one in Shenzhen, Guangdong province－for making sexually suggestive comments about the woman who died on Friday, according to the Sina Weibo accounts of the police departments in the two cities. The men, surnamed Shen, 29, and Zhang, 22, were both held after the remarks they made in a QQ chat group that claims to be a collection of Didi drivers. That claim has not been verified.
Police in Wuhan's Caidian district and Shenzhen's Bao'an district received tips of the men's whereabouts and caught them on Monday. Both confessed to making the remarks, police said.