Chinese billionaire and Alibaba founder Jack Ma is suspected missing after vanishing from the public eye for more than two months, The Telegraph, UK reported. This comes amid his deepening conflict with the Chinese government.
A former English teacher, Ma is considered one of China’s internet pioneers, building an ecommerce empire with Alibaba and a fintech giant with the Ant Group.
He was to appear as a judge in the final episode of his own talent show, ‘Africa’s Business Heroes' but he did not turn up. Consequently, his photos were reportedly removed from the show’s website. The show provides African entrepreneurs the chance to compete for a slice of $1.5 million prize money.
“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 (2020),” an Alibaba spokesperson was quoted as saying.
In recent months, Ma’s Ant Group has come under scrutiny after he delivered a controversial speech in Shanghai on October 24. In the speech, Ma had criticised China’s regulations for stifling innovation.
Chinese banks, he said, operated with a “pawnshop” mentality.
Several senior financial regulatory officials were furious at Ma’s criticism, two sources had told Reuters earlier, with one source characterising the speech as a “punch in their faces”.
Also read (MC Pro): Why China turned against Jack Ma
The following month, Chinese officials reprimanded Ma and suspended Ant Group’s planned blockbuster $37-billion initial public offering (IPO).
State regulators also started compiling reports including one on how Ant had used digital financial products like Huabei, a virtual credit card service, to encourage poor and young people to build up debt, reports said.
The general office of the State Council reportedly compiled a report on public sentiment about Ma’s speech and submitted it to senior leaders including President Xi Jinping.Also read: How billionaire Jack Ma fell to earth and took Ant's mega IPO with him