Alibaba's Jack Ma, 'missing' for months, makes first public appearance
After months of being "missing," Alibaba and Ant founder Jack Ma has finally made a public appearance. Ma held a video conference with 100 village teachers on Wednesday morning. The 56-year-old billionaire, who is China's most recognizable entrepreneur, had mysteriously "disappeared" in October 2020 after Beijing's aggressive crackdown on his business empire. His disappearance had given rise to intense speculation on his whereabouts.
Ma addressed teachers via a live stream during an annual event he hosts to recognize rural educators, according to Bloomberg. In a clip from the event, that has been shared widely online, he talked about how he will spend more time on philanthropy. "Working hard for rural revitalization and common prosperity is the responsibility for our generation of businessmen," he said in the video.
However, Ma did not mention the government crackdown on his business. In an email to Bloomberg, Ant confirmed the authenticity of the video. Since Ma resurfaced, Alibaba's shares gained more than 4% in Hong Kong.
Over the months that Ma had stepped away from public view, several rumors had emerged, including some claiming that the billionaire had been detained. In the past, China has quietly detained billionaires that have gone against the law without immediate trial. Reportedly, Ma had decided to be less visible over the past few months purposefully and will continue to dodge the limelight.
China has been pursuing investigations into suspected monopolistic activities by Alibaba and Ant. Authorities have also asked Alibaba to rectify its lending, insurance, and wealth management services. China's actions are likely aimed at reining in tech giants, which have amassed too much control over the country's economy, the second-largest in the world. Ma had notably stepped down as Alibaba's chairperson in 2019.