China’s Uber Apologizes After Sexual Harassment Claim Goes Viral

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China’s most popular ride-hailing service, Didi Chuxing, has again landed in hot water after a female passenger accused her driver of sexual harassment, and then the company’s customer service of mishandling her complaint.

“We are deeply sorry,” the company — which acquired Uber’s China operations in 2016 — said in a press release sent to Sixth Tone on Monday, adding that the case was under investigation.

Yang Tingting is a 30-year-old content creator who writes under the pen name Meng Po. On Saturday, she published an article about her Didi experience the previous evening. “I definitely won’t use Didi again when I’m alone at night,” she wrote. On Sunday, she penned a follow-up post detailing the timeline of the incident and response that received over 100,000 views.

According to Yang, she had hailed a Didi Select car in Beijing at around 10:30 p.m. on Friday. An unusual scent in the car made her feel dizzy, and the male driver leered at her, smiling. “I know what you do,” Yang recalled him saying. He asked how much it would cost for one night with her.

Yang pretended she did not understand the driver’s insinuation, and pointedly sent voice messages to her friends. Then when the car stopped at a red light, the driver suddenly asked Yang to get out, before she had reached her destination. Yang realized then that he had taken her in the wrong direction.

At around 11 p.m., Yang submitted a complaint via the Didi app, and a customer service representative called her on Saturday afternoon — almost 18 hours later. According to Yang, the male operator asked her, “Did you give the driver any hint that led to his misunderstanding?”

“The operator actually laughed when he heard the driver had attempted to hurt me,” Yang wrote in Sunday’s post.

Yang told Sixth Tone that a second Didi representative called her on Sunday afternoon to apologize, refund her fare, and inform her that the company had told the driver to turn himself in. Yang added that she had contacted police herself just after midnight on Friday, though they had simply referred her to Didi’s complaint system.

Didi’s press statement added that the company had checked its customer service recordings and would publish the audio files if Yang consented.

In 2016, Didi promised to increase security after a passenger was allegedly killed by one of its drivers. According to company regulations seen by Sixth Tone, Didi now conducts background checks on all drivers, ruling out those with criminal records, a history of drug use, or severe mental illness. “We have a 24/7 hotline for emergencies such as criminal cases, sexual harassment, and traffic accidents,” a Didi spokesman told Sixth Tone on Monday.

Yet while Uber took a massive hit in 2017, partly due to allegations of sexism, Didi’s growth did not slow despite wide coverage of sexual harassment complaints. By the end of 2017, the company reportedly had 450 million users. However, things took a turn this year as Meituan — a dining and entertainment platform with 600 million users — entered the ride-hailing business.

Didi is biting back with its own food-delivery service, which is now recruiting delivery drivers in nine cities, according to Sixth Tone’s research. But with AutoNavi, an Alibaba-affiliated navigation service, also jumping into the ring this month, competition in China’s ride-hailing sector is only set to get fiercer.

Editor: Qian Jinghua.

(Header image: A woman hails a car from the side of a road in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, March 22, 2007. Xiao En/VCG)



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