China’s leading ride-hailing platform Didi Chuxing said Monday that it is suing a man professing to be one of its drivers after he made headlines last week for livestreaming what appeared to be a graphic rape of a female passenger.
Didi’s announcement came days after GitHub user @besafe2020June shared a now-deleted post on the code-hosting platform, describing how the self-proclaimed Didi driver said he had used “knockout gas” to render his female passenger unconscious before raping her in front of a live online audience.
When a netizen shared the video Thursday on microblogging site Weibo — the platform later deleted the account, saying it had spread “false information” — it triggered a loud public outcry over women’s safety in public spaces, following numerous incidents of murder, rape, and harassment involving Didi drivers in recent years.
GitHub user @besafe2020June told Sixth Tone on Thursday that the driver had broadcast the incident on Xinglian Live Broadcast, an underground pornography app that is not available on Chinese app stores. Pornography is illegal in China, and profiting from such content can result in punishments ranging from under three years in prison to, in severe cases, life.
On Friday, the public security bureau in Zhengzhou, capital of the central Henan province, confirmed the incident had taken place and said it would prosecute the man and woman for “pornographic performance” instead of handling it as a sexual abuse case. Citing its investigation, the bureau added that the “driver” and “passenger” are actually a married couple who had been arrested for indulging in “public pornographic performance.”
Didi said the “stunt to attract viewers and earn money has created a bad influence on Didi and its drivers.” The company added, however, that it will not pursue lawsuits against the social media users who first uploaded a video of the livestream, as they had not been ill-intentioned but rather hoped to draw attention to women’s safety issues.
In the video that @basafe2020June, who uses the banned pornography platform, shared with Sixth Tone, the driver asks viewers to send virtual gifts as he exposes the woman’s private parts. He then sets a paywall of 90 virtual coins — around 10 yuan ($1.50) — before proceeding with the alleged rape, which lasts around 15 minutes.
According to @basafe2020June, they decided to share details of the incident to raise awareness. “I’m just an overzealous netizen,” the GitHub user said. “I chose to publish this because I don’t want to one day regret not stepping in.”
Editor: Bibek Bhandari.
(Header image: Stephan Geyer/Getty Creative/People Visual)