Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma suddenly disappeared from public view after criticizing the Chinese government. Many are asking where is the popular and outspoken tech billionaire?
During a speech in Shanghai in October, Mr. Ma slammed the ‘”pawnshop mentality” of China’s state-owned banks. He compared the country’s global financial regulators to the “old people’s club,” which he believes is stifling innovation.
Mr. Ma’s speech drew the ire of China’s government officials, which considered it an attack on the authority of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Since then, the Chinese government went after his companies.
The Wall Street Journal reported that President Xi Jinping personally ordered the suspension of the initial public offering (IPO) of Ant Financial, which was expected to be the biggest public offering. The IPO could have valued Mr. Ma’s financial company at $300 billion.
The Chinese government also opened an antitrust investigation into Alibaba. Both the IPO suspension and the Alibaba antitrust probe resulted in a $12 billion decline of Mr. Ma’s fortune to $50.9 billion from around $62 billion in October 2020.
Mr. Ma also suddenly vanished from his reality television show, Africa’s Business Heroes, before the November finals. He was set to serve as a judge in the finals of the reality TV show, which he personally created for aspiring entrepreneurs.
A few weeks ago, the tech billionaire tweeted that he can’t wait to meet the contestants, However, since that tweet, Mr. Ma hasn’t shared anything on his social media account. He usually tweets several times a day.
Many sources suggest that Mr. Ma’s criticisms against the Chinese government are linked to his sudden disappearance. A spokesperson for Alibaba group said, “Due to a schedule conflict Mr. Ma could no longer be part of the finale judge panel of Africa’s Business Heroes earlier this year.”
Political observers noted that the Chinese government has a history of carrying out cruel actions against its critics who are its citizens. A retired real-estate tycoon, Ren Zhiqiang who called Pres. Xi a “clown” for his handling of the coronavirus crisis disappeared in mid-March.
The following month, Chinese authorities released a statement indicating that Zhiqiang was under investigation for allegedly committing serious violations of the country’s laws and CCP regulations. In September, he was sentenced to 18 years in prison on corruption charges.
In 2017, a Chinese billionaire financier, Xian Jianhua was taken from a hotel in Hong Kong and brought to mainland China. He was reportedly placed under house arrest.
There is a possibility that Chinese authorities placed Jack Ma in a similar situation. Take note that in 2003 when he created his mobile and online payment platform Alipay, he said, “If someone needs to go to jail for Alipay, let it be me.” Alipay is now a part of Ant Financial.
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