Chinese Tech Billionaire Jack Ma Suspected Missing After Criticising Government
Chinese billionaire Jack Ma is suspected missing after not being seen in public for two months, following his criticisms of the country’s financial system.
The tech mogul, who founded e-commerce platform Alibaba, spoke out about China’s ‘pawnshop’ regulators and state-owned banks in October 2020.
During the Shanghai speech, he compared the country’s banking regulations to an ‘old people’s club,’ while calling for reform.
His comments are believed to have angered President Xi Jinping and the Communist Party, prompting the government to come down hard on Ma’s business.
Just a couple of weeks later, the initial public offering of the Ant Group, a company backed by Ma, was scheduled with a value of around $35 billion. However, it was suspended, allegedly at the order of President Xi, with regulators citing ‘major issues’.
A number of actions have also been taken against Alibaba, including an antitrust investigation into the company, which has wiped approximately $10 million from his net-worth.
Ma has not tweeted since October 10 and recently failed to appear on the final episode of Africa’s Business Heroes, a talent show that sees the Jack Ma Foundation giving a shared $1.5 million grant to emerging African entrepreneurs.
The billionaire was replaced by his company’s co-founder Lucy Peng during the final episode of the show, and his picture was removed from the judges’ webpage, prompting huge concerns over his welfare.
A spokesperson for Alibaba said Ma was unable to be part of the judging panel because of a ‘schedule conflict,’ the Financial Times reports. Just weeks prior to the finale, which was later filmed in November, the businessman had tweeted that he ‘couldn’t wait’ to meet the contestants.
Concerns for Ma’s welfare are continuing the mount, as President Xi is known for his ruthless action in silencing internal critics. Earlier this year, a wealthy property investor disappeared after calling the president a ‘clown’ for the way in which he handled the COVID-19 outbreak.
Ren Zhiqiang went missing for six months, and was later sentenced to 18 years in prison after allegedly ‘voluntarily and truthfully’ confessing to corruption crimes.
It comes after billionaire Xian Jianhua was taken from a hotel in Hong Kong in 2017 and flown to mainland China, where he remains on house arrest in an unknown location.
Ma has repeatedly clashed with authorities in China after calling for a more open and market-driven economy.
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