Questions surface over the disappearance of Alibaba’s Jack Ma

Questions about the whereabouts of tech giant billionaire and founder of Alibaba Jack Ma have arisen as he has not appeared in public for more than two months. In the latter part of 2020, his fintech business Ant Group (which owns popular payment service Alipay) was embroiled in controversy as its record-breaking IPO, valued at $37 billion, was halted last-minute by Chinese regulators.

Ma was meant to be acting as a judge on a talent show in November but did not make an appearance. He was last publicly seen in October when he gave a speech in Shanghai criticising China’s financial regulators. Some commentators have asserted that this speech resulted in Ant Group’s IPO suspension as he was soon after called into talks with regulators along with other senior executives at Ant Group.

As authorities moved to increase oversight of China’s tech giants and introduce anti monopolistic measures last year, Alibaba was also the subject of an antitrust investigation.

Speculators have asserted that he has been asked to lie low by Chinese officials as his businesses are investigated. Jack Ma has accumulated a wealth of $58.7 billion, making him top of Forbes’ China Rich List. He has become a global name with appearances at the World Economic Forum in Davos and singing performances at Tmall’s Singles’ Day galas. His increasing power both within China and abroad has been viewed as a threat to the Chinese government.

There has been little mention of the story in the Chinese press or on social media. Popular news and social media site Weibo, which censors politically sensitive content, had no hashtag relating to the topic.

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