China's transport ministry on Sunday slammed Didi Chuxing's safety lapses as the ride-hailing giant said it would suspend its Hitch service after the rape and murder of a passenger, the second such killing this year.
A 20-year-old female passenger was raped and killed by her driver on Friday in the eastern city of Wenzhou, barely three months after a similar incident in May.
"These two vicious incidents that have violated the life and safety of passengers has exposed the gaping operational loopholes of the Didi Chuxing platform," the Ministry of Transport said in a statement.
"The Ministry demands that Didi... stops making empty promises and takes concrete steps to ensuring passengers' safety."
Among a list of demands, the ministry called on the Chinese firm, which calls itself the world's leading mobile transportation platform, to improve its driver vetting and driver education process.
The statement was released after a meeting on Sunday between the company, the public security ministry and the transport departments of Beijing and Tianjin.
Didi said earlier Sunday that it would suspend the Hitch service -- which links up commuters travelling in the same direction -- beginning midnight on Monday.
The announcement came a day after the company admitted it bore responsibility for the crime, failing to act on a complaint about the same driver from another passenger.
She claimed he drove her to an isolated area and followed her in his vehicle after she left the car.
"The incident shows the many deficiencies with our customer service processes, especially the failure to act swiftly on the previous passenger's complaint and the cumbersome and rigid process of information-sharing with the police," Didi said in a statement on Sunday.
It would also launch a review of the Hitch service and look again at its emergency response button.
The head of Didi Hitch and the vice president of customer service have been removed from their positions.
Wenzhou police said the driver, identified by the surname Chung, picked up the victim on Friday afternoon but she went missing soon after sending a friend a text message asking for help.
This prompted a manhunt which saw the driver arrested in the early hours of Saturday, police said.
- 'Get out' -
The killing has sparked fresh criticism of Didi -- which muscled Uber out of the market following a bruising battle -- as angry users voiced concern about its safety.
"Since the company can't regulate itself, get out of the market," wrote one user on the Twitter-like Weibo.
In a scathing commentary, the official Xinhua news agency on Sunday pointed out that Didi has been slapped with over one million yuan ($148,000) in fines over the past 10 months in Wenzhou alone.
"Despite repeated punishment, there has been recalcitrant behaviour and no change, a reflection of the company's indifference to safety and social responsibility," the commentary said, calling on Didi to be punished if it fails to put customer safety first.
In May a 21-year-old air stewardess using the same Hitch service was killed by a Didi Chuxing driver, prompting criticism of the company's security measures and a tightening up of its rules of use.
This included restricting Hitch drivers to only picking up members of the same sex late at night and in the early morning, and enabling passengers to share their route with an emergency contact.
Didi Chuxing says it has 30 million drivers and more than 550 million users across its various services.