Jack Ma, the billionaire founder of the Chinese internet beemot Alibaba, made his first public appearance in over two months in an online video on Wednesday, ending weeks of speculation about his whereabouts.
In the 50-second video, Ma congratulated teachers supported by his foundation and did not mention his disappearance or official efforts to tighten control over Alibaba and other Internet companies over the past six months. The video appeared on Chinese corporate news and other websites.
The normally volatile Ma disappeared from the public eye after irritating regulators by criticizing them in a speech on October 24 at a conference in Shanghai. A few days later, regulators suspended the planned multimillion-dollar stock market debut in Ant Group, a financial platform that emerged from Alibaba’s payment service, Alipay.
Shortly afterwards, the record-breaking IPO of $ 37 billion for his financial group Ant was nailed at the last minute by Chinese regulators in a shock move that some saw as retaliation for Ma’s unspeakableness.
All praise for China’s poverty reduction
The Jack Ma Foundation said in a statement released on Wednesday: “Jack Ma attended the online ceremony for the annual Country Teacher Initiative on January 20.” The foundation and Alibaba did not answer questions about Ma’s status and when his next public event may be.
In the speech, Ma praised China’s poverty reduction work, a key goal of the communist leadership, and promised to make more efforts to help rural teachers.
“My colleagues and I … are even more determined to devote ourselves to education and public welfare,” he said, according to a transcript of his speech published by Chinese news site Tianmu News.
“China has … entered a new stage of development and is moving towards common prosperity.”
Pronounced businessman is subject to monopoly prob
Since the IPO was lifted, Chinese regulators have launched an antitrust probe into Alibaba.
Both Alibaba and Ant said they will cooperate with requests for rules.
Ma, a charismatic former teacher who became an Internet entrepreneur, retired as chairman of Alibaba in 2019 but has long attracted attention for his outspokenness and flamboyant antics, and played as a rock star at corporate conferences.
The continued pressure on one of China’s most influential companies is the latest sign that the leadership is ready to empty the ambitions of large technology companies in a rampant Internet sector.
Beijing has a history of disappearing, investigating and imprisoning financial tycoons who do not stand on the party line.
Last year, the outspoken real estate magnet Ren Zhiqiang was jailed for 18 years on alleged corruption charges, months after writing an essay critical of the Communist Party.
( Jowharwith AFP and AP)