BEIJING: Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing said Sunday it would suspend its ride-sharing Hitch service after the rape and murder of a passenger, the second such killing this year.

The killing has sparked fresh criticism of the company as angry users voiced concerns about the safety of the service

Police have arrested a 27-year-old man who worked as a driver in the eastern city of Wenzhou on suspicion of raping and killing a female passenger who used the app to hail a ride.

The company said it would suspend Didi Hitch — a service which pairs 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, who 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.

“This is too high a cost to pay.”

Local police said the driver, identified by the surname Chung, picked up the 20-year-old victim around 1:00pm (0500 GMT) on Friday.

But she went missing an hour later after sending a friend a text message asking for help, prompting a manhunt which saw the driver arrested in the early hours of Saturday, police said.

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The killing has sparked fresh criticism of Didi — which muscled Uber out of the market following a bruising battle — as angry users voiced concerns about the safety of the service.

“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 1 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.

Didi said Sunday that the head of Didi Hitch and the vice president of customer service have been “removed” from their positions.

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 limiting Hitch drivers to only picking up members of the same sex late at night and early morning, and enabling passengers to share their route with an emergency .

Didi Chuxing calls itself the world‘s leading mobile transportation platform, saying in March that it had 21 million drivers and more than 450 million users across its various services.

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