A sort of citizens’ court went into session on Weibo. The victim’s friend accused Didi of delaying its intervention after she’d contacted the service. Another woman came forward claiming prior harassment by the same driver, stating that Didi didn’t respond to her complaints. Local police published their report of the case on their official account. Reviewing these pieces of evidence, many users have decided Didi is guilty, and a boycott is the penalty.
“Some might say there are just a few bad drivers, but Didi has given these criminals a platform,” wrote one user on Weibo. “I hope everyone boycotts Didi together.” The actress Xiaochen Wang posted a screenshot of her deleting Didi’s app, with the caption “Bye!” to more than 9 million followers. Hundreds of thousands of fans liked or commented on the post in support, many of them sharing their own screenshots. As of Monday, the top trending topic on Weibo was “sue Didi.” Four out of Weibo’s top 10 trending topics related to Didi.
#BoycottDidi recalls last year’s #DeleteUber movement that arose after the carpool service was accused of taking advantage—by turning off its surge pricing—of protests over President Donald Trump’s Muslim travel ban, on the heels of Uber’s own sexual-harassment controversies.
This is not the first time Didi has been embroiled in scandal as concerns over the safety of women in China grow. In the past four years, more than 50 female passengers have publicly accused its drivers of sexual assault and harassment. The company has made attempts to bolster passenger safety, including a removal of passenger account photos and a ban on male drivers from picking up female passengers during late hours. But frustration continues to mount over the app. The ban was criticized as counterintuitive, since female passengers, alone and without a means to go home at night, worried they’d be more unsafe.
Why #DeleteUber and other boycotts matter
It’s uncertain how #BoycottDidi will impact the company. Last year, despite facing public backlash and past threats to boycott over reports of driver sexual harassment, the company’s user base grew to more than 400 million users. It was reportedly planning an IPO later this year and remains the country’s most popular ride-hailing app, although challengers such as Meituan-Dianping, originally a food-delivery app, have recently entered the market.
This boycott in particular, however, has gained traction against the backdrop of a renewed conversation over sexual assault that’s taken hold in China. The country’s grassroots #MeToo movement, which got its start on Weibo as well, has shone a stark spotlight on campus and workplace sexual-harassment cases and compelled activists who, critical of slack regulation from businesses and the government, have started petitions, spread flyers, and, yes, encouraged boycotts.
The outcry over Didi ultimately reflects an ongoing, larger concern over violence against young women in China. “It shouldn’t matter what clothes a woman was wearing or whether she was drunk. We shouldn’t tell women to act a certain way, or only teach women to defend themselves,” wrote one Didi boycotter on Weibo. “We should teach men not to violate others.”