China finds drug users and convicts among ride-hailing app drivers

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Five ride-hailing platforms in China, including Didi Kuaidi and Uber, have been called in by authorities in the southern city of Shenzhen over the lax process of screening drivers, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Some drivers were found to have committed various traffic violations and used license plates from outside their jurisdiction to do business, Xinhua said late on Wednesday, citing findings from the Shenzhen transportation committee.

Other problems with the ride-hailing companies included untimely handling of passenger complaints and the obstruction of fair competition, according to the committee.

China is drawing up rules to regulate the booming ride-hailing industry, dominated by Didi Kuaidi and where U.S. firm Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] has also expanded rapidly. The authorities and the traditional taxi industry have at times clashed with companies allowing people to provide unlicensed transport services.

Xinhua reported that inspections carried out by Shenzhen’s public security bureau also found some of the drivers working for ride-hailing firms had taken drugs in the past, suffered from mental illness and committed disciplinary violations.

When contacted by Reuters, a Didi Kuaidi spokeswoman noted the company’s response to the findings on its official microblog saying it had studied the Shenzhen authorities’ concerns and would comply with government requirements.

An Uber spokeswoman told Reuters that safety was the top priority and the firm had a screening process, rolling out facial-recognition technology for driver registration.

An initial inspection by Shenzhen’s public security department showed that among the pool of Shenzhen’s app drivers, 1,425 drivers had a criminal history of drug use, 1,661 had significant criminal records, and one driver was mentally ill and “caused trouble”, Xinhua said.

Shenzhen authorities said that it had information that a total of 756,000 traffic violations involving car app services occurred in 2015, and that many cases involved drivers working when tired or ill.

One case even involved a driver who died enroute while carrying passengers in the car, it said.

(Reporting by Jessica Macy Yu; Additional reporting by Paul Carsten; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)