Alibaba’s Jack Ma Emerges for 1st Time Since Oct at Virtual Event
This is Ma’s first appearance in public since regulators began clamping down on his business empire.
Amid intense speculation over his whereabouts after being away from public view for a lengthy period, Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma has re-emerged, addressing 100 rural teachers in China over video conference on Wednesday, 20 January, Reuters reported, quoting local government media.
This is Ma’s first appearance in public since October 2020, when regulators began clamping down on his business empire after a critical speech, The Wall Street Journal reported.
According to a report by Global Times, Ma attended the Jack Ma Rural Teachers Award ceremony, an annual event launched by the Jack Ma Foundation in 2015. Bloomberg reported that this is part of an annual event he hosts to recognise the achievements of rural educators.
Where Was Jack Ma?
The Chinese business tycoon had been "missing" for over two months, giving rise to intense speculation regarding his whereabouts.
The Alibaba founder's disappearance from public view came at a time when he's had recent run-ins with the Chinese government. Neither the Chinese government nor Alibaba has so far offered an explanation on his whereabouts.
Ma's last post on Twitter was on 10 October. Since then he has been missing from social media. Ma also failed to turn up for the final episode of a TV show, Africa's Business Heros, in which he was to appear as a judge.
Subsequently, his face was also removed from the official website of the show. Alibaba has, however, said that Ma did not appear on the show due to a scheduling conflict.
Ma has, thereafter, not been seen in public since a forum in Shanghai in late October where he criticised China’s regulatory system. In the speech, he said that Chinese banks operate with a “pawnshop” mentality.
Ma's latest criticism of the government in Shanghai saw the latter suspending an IPO of Alibaba's affiliate company, Ant Group. The stock market listing was claimed to be the world’s biggest IPO with a value of about $35 billion.
Ma and Chinese Clampdown on Tech Firms
Ma is reported to have a personal discord with Chinese President Xi Jinping. In the October 2020 speech, Ma also attacked the President.
It is said that after that appearance, Ma was given a dressing down and was asked to keep low.
The probe into Alibaba is in line with anti-monopoly draft rules for online platforms that China unveiled recently. The Anti-Monopoly Law aims to prevent anti-competitive practices in the internet space, including unfair price behaviour, below-cost and tie-in sales, and unreasonable trading conditions.
Experts say that this law is expected to hit Chinese internet companies like Alibaba, Tencent, Pinduoduo, JD.com and Meituan.
(With inputs from Reuters, Global Times, Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal.)
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