TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The mystery over the whereabouts of Alibaba and Ant Group founder Jack Ma (馬雲) has begun to intensify as reports surface that he failed to appear on his own talent show, and his social media accounts have gone dormant since October.
In a speech delivered at the Bund Finance Summit in Shanghai on Oct. 24, Ma railed against China's traditional banks for operating with a "pawn shop" mentality. On Nov. 3, just two days before Ant Group's scheduled US$34 billion IPO, Chinese regulators pulled the plug on the process, while Ma was advised to remain in the country as officials launched an anti-monopoly inquest.
On Jan. 1, the Financial Times reported that Ma was replaced on his own show, "Africa's Business Heroes," just before the finale was to take place. His photos were also taken down from the judging webpage, and he was nowhere to be seen in a promotional video.
A representative for Alibaba told the news agency that Ma was not able to attend the finale because of a "schedule conflict." However, on Aug. 19 of last year, Ma on his Twitter account congratulated the 20 finalists for the show and wrote "I can't wait to meet them!"
Ma's last social media post was uploaded on Oct. 17, when he posted a photo of an exchange of ideas about education with 100 principles from famous primary and secondary schools in China on his Weibo page. The abrupt end to his posts on Weibo is considered by some to be suspicious, as he had previously been uploading several posts each month.
The Chinese government has a long history of taking ruthless measures against its domestic critics. In March of last year, real estate tycoon Ren Zhiqiang (任志強) disappeared after calling Chinese Chairman Xi Jinping (習近平) a "clown" for his poor handling of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak.
Six months later, he "voluntarily and truthfully confessed" to corruption crimes and was sentenced to 18 years in prison. In addition, in January of 2017, the billionaire financier and Tomorrow Holding owner Xiao Jianhua (肖建華) was abducted from his hotel room in Hong Kong and taken to China. In September of 2018, the South China Morning Post reported that he would stand trial in Shanghai for "manipulating stock and futures markets" and "offering bribes on behalf of institutions"
Congrats to the top 20 Africa's Business Heroes finalists! Selected from 22k+ applications across all 54 African countries, these entrepreneurs are from 14 countries & 11 industries, and more than 50% are women. I can’t wait to meet them! https://t.co/0eUze6TUOJ @africa_heroes pic.twitter.com/5C3HmwjWRJ
— Jack Ma (@JackMa) August 19, 2020