Chinese billionaire Jack Ma has not made any public appearance after he gave a speech in Shanghai in October 2020 criticizing China’s economic policies and system of banking.
His absence from public view in the past two months has fuelled social media speculation over his whereabouts amid a Chinese regulatory clampdown on his sprawling business empire.
During a speech at the summit, the 56-year-old tech magnate had attacked the communist nation’s banking system and called for reforms. He had even said that Chinese banks operate with a “pawnshop” mentality.
Mr. Ma, who is the founder of e-commerce platform Alibaba, has not tweeted anything for nearly three months now, since his last post on 10 October last year.
He failed to appear in the final episode of Africa’s Business Heroes, a talent show of the Jack Ma Foundation in which 10 emerging African entrepreneurs are given a shared US$1.5m (£1.09m) grant for pursuing their ideas.
The Chinese billionaire was replaced as a judge in the final episode of the show by Alibaba’s co-founder Lucy Peng and his picture was also removed from the judging webpage, reported the Financial Times.
The news report also quoted an Alibaba spokesperson who stated that Mr. Ma could no longer be part of the finale of the show “due to a schedule conflict”.
Chinese regulators have zeroed in on Mr. Ma’s businesses since his October speech including launching an antitrust probe into Alibaba.
The controversial speech was made just a couple of weeks before the scheduled initial public offering (IPO) of the Ant Group, which is backed by Mr. Ma.
The stock market listing was claimed to be the world’s biggest IPO with a value of about US$35bn (£25.5bn). But just a couple of days before it was to happen, China’s regulatory authorities suspended it, citing “major issues”.
Subsequently, a series of actions have been taken against Mr. Ma’s companies including an antitrust investigation into Alibaba. The firm’s US$10bn (£7.3bn) buyback programme in December failed to excite the market.
During the pandemic, Mr. Ma has donated tens of millions of face coverings across the world and 2,000 ventilators to New York. (Source: Independent UK)