WeChat account for females shut down over Chinese flight attendant murder comments

PHOTO: Video screengrab

A popular WeChat account aimed at female users has been shut down after it was accused of posting vulgar content related to the apparent sexual assault and killing of a flight attendant by a Didi Chuxing driver.

The woman, surnamed Li, 21, who worked for Lucky Airlines, used the ride-hailing app's "hitch" service late on May 5 to travel from the airport to a train station in Zhengzhou, Henan province.

She was picked up by 27-year-old driver Liu Zhenhua, who police say drove Li to a deserted spot 15 kilometers away and killed her, before dumping her partially clothed body.

The WeChat account Ergeng Shitang, or "Late Night Canteen", which had an estimated 1 million active users, posted an article on Friday that was removed within hours due to a flood of complaints from users. It allegedly made indelicate and disrespectful references to Li's death, with many netizens saying the post's content was insensitive and inappropriate.

Police found Li's body on May 8 but did not officially release details of how she died.

Five people, including a police support officer, were detained on Saturday for posting pictures of the crime scene online. Liu, the Didi driver, jumped to his death from a bridge within an hour of the killing, police said.

Li Ming, CEO of Ergeng Shitang, issued an apology shortly after the article was removed and blamed the problem on poor editorial standards.

Zhejiang province's internet watchdog suspended the account for one week on Saturday and ordered operators to clean up any "harmful content". However, on Sunday, parent company Ergeng Media announced it was closing the WeChat feed permanently and that Li had been fired.

"We've made a painful mistake that has led to detrimental effects on society," Ding Feng, the founder of Ergeng Media, said in a statement. "I apologize again to the victim's family and the public. We're sorry for the mistake."

In 2015, Ding acquired a subscription account set up by Li Ming and renamed it Ergeng Shitang, focusing on female topics.

According to itjuzi.com, an online business statistics provider, Ergeng Media has finished four rounds of financing, raising more than 400 million yuan (S$84.2 million).

Didi Chuxing suspended its hitch service on Friday. The service allowed private drivers to pick up passengers heading in the same direction, and has a less vigorous vetting process for drivers than other Didi services.

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