Tech billionaire Jack Ma missing after criticising China

Alibaba co-founder and Chinese tech billionaire Jack Ma has reportedly not appeared in public for over two months after he gave a controversial speech in October 2020. Jack Ma did not show up for the final episode of his own talent show, Africa’s Business Heroes in November. Ma was replaced by Lucy Peng, an Alibaba executive, to judge the show. His picture was also removed from the show’s judging panel webpage. An Alibaba spokesperson told Financial Times that Jack Ma was unable to attend the final episode of the show as a judge due to a schedule time conflict.

Jack Ma, in a speech on October 24, criticised China’s “pawnshop financial regulators and state-owned banks.” He also called for a reform of China’s regulation system for stifling business innovation and likened global banking regulations to an ‘old people’s club’.

“Today’s financial system is the legacy of the Industrial Age. We must set up a new one for the next generation and young people. We must reform the current system,” Ma said in the speech. According to The Wall Street Journal, officials in Beijing dressed down Ma and suspended the $37billion initial public offering of his Ant Group on the direct order of President Xi in November.

Bloomberg noted that Ma was advised to remain in China after which an anti-monopoly investigation was launched into Ma’s Alibaba Group Holding on Christmas Eve. Beijing also ordered Ma’s financial tech company Ant Group to scale back its operations. The anti-monopoly investigation caused Alibaba’s shares to drop by a quarter since their peak shortly after the October speech, wiping more than $10billion from Ma’s fortune, Daily Mail UK reported. This resulted in Jack Ma landing into third place on the list of China’s richest people, behind Pinduoduo chief executive Colin Huang and Tencent Holdings’ Pony Ma Huateng. Ma now has an estimated current net worth of $63.1billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Since the speech, regulators have met with executives from Ant and ordered it to improve its corporate governance, its compliance with regulation and its habit of using its size to push competitors out of the market. Reports speculate that Ma’s speech angered the Chinese government, which viewed his criticisms as an attack on the authority of the Communist Party. Ma’s business empire, Ant Group, has been under scrutiny by Beijing ever since the speech. Jack Ma was involved in charity work and has donated millions of face masks to Europe, the US and the World Health Organisation in the backdrop of coronavirus. He also donated 2000 ventilators to New York hospitals.

Source: India Today

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