China launches safety audit on Didi, ride-hail firms

Angry users have attacked Didi and called for a boycott

Chinese authorities launched a security audit of ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing on Wednesday following a public outcry over the rape and murder of a passenger last month, the transport ministry said.

Officials from 10 different government departments, including the public security ministry and the market regulator, will be stationed at Didi for a fortnight, the transport ministry said in a statement.

The company has been slammed by passengers and the transport ministry after a 20-year-old passenger was raped and murdered by her driver in the eastern city of Wenzhou last month, the second such killing this year.

"This inspection will examine all web-based ride hailing websites and ride-sharing platforms, its hidden dangers and its impact on the safety of passengers," the ministry said, adding that its recent problems are being taken "very seriously by the central leadership".

Other major market players including the Tencent-backed Meituan-Dianping online services platform will also come under scrutiny.

Angry users last month attacked Didi and called for a boycott after it emerged that the company failed to act on a complaint about the same driver just a day before the recent murder.

The incident, which came barely three months after the previous killing, was a top news item for days in China, with many calling for tougher regulation in the industry.

Didi said Tuesday that it will roll out a series of new safety measures and suspend most late-night ride services for a week beginning Saturday.

New measures include a "safety knowledge test" which drivers must pass every day before driving, upgrades to a police call button and experiments with sound recording of the entire ride.

Didi will also expand its in-house customer service team to 8,000 members by the end of the year.

The Hitch service, which links up commuters travelling in the same direction, has been suspended after both murders targeted customers using the service.

Didi Chuxing -- which muscled Uber out of China in 2016 after a bruising battle -- says it has 30 million drivers and more than 550 million users across its various services.