November 7, 2019 / 3:52 PM / 14 days ago

China's Didi reverses decision to allow late rides for men only

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Chinese ride-hailing firm Didi Chuxing is seen at their new drivers center in Toluca, Mexico, April 23, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Chinese ride-hailing firm Didi Chuxing, which plans to relaunch its carpool service suspended after a woman was murdered by her driver last year, reversed a decision on Thursday to allow late rides for male passengers only.

Didi’s Hitch carpool service, which will relaunch in several Chinese cities on Nov 20, will operate for all passengers daily until 8:00 p.m., it said.

On Wednesday the company had announced that the service would shut for women each evening at 8:00, but that men would be allowed to use it until 11:00.

The announcement led to widespread ridicule on social media from users who described it as sexist. A post on Weibo with 1,500 “likes” called the decision to have separate hours for female and male passengers “negative marketing”.

Last year’s murder case badly dented Didi’s image as it tries to expand overseas to compete with rivals such as Uber, and prompted the company to pledge to prioritize safety over growth.

Hitch allows multiple passengers to share a ride for cheaper fares than riding alone, similar to Uber’s Pool service. The company says it will be relaunched with new safety features and stricter verification of driver and passenger identities.

The relaunch trial will start in the cities of Harbin, Taiyuan, Shijiazhuang and Changzhou from Nov. 20 and cover Shenyang, Beijing and Nantong from Nov. 29.

Reporting by Twinnie Siu in Hong Kong, Yilei Sun in Beijing and Brenda Goh in Shanghai; Editing by Peter Graff

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