In news that’s come as a shock for the tech community, Alibaba founder Jack Ma has “disappeared” from public life as rumours have surfaced online that the tech billionaire has not been spotted for the past 2 months now amid his conflict with the Chinese government. Also Read - Jack Ma's Alibaba fined record $2.7B by China
What could have gone wrong
Jack Ma was recently replaced as a TV show judge in the final episode of ‘Africa Business Heroes’, reported Financial Times. The show gives budding African entrepreneurs a chance to compete for a US kickstarter fund worth $1.5 million. Also Read - Ant Group ordered by China to reexamine its fintech businesses and return to its roots as a payments service
“His photograph was removed from the judging webpage, and he was conspicuously left out of a promotional video,” the report claimed. Also Read - Alibaba sells $3 billion worth of goods in the first 5 minutes of Singles' Day Sale; Apple, Xiaomi top brands
The final episode of the show aired on November, shortly after Ma “made a candid speech criticising China’s regulators and its state-owned banks”.
Alibaba’s spokesperson said that “due to a schedule conflict Mr Ma could no longer be part of the finale judge panel of Africa’s Business Heroes earlier this year (2020)”.
“Ma was dressed down by officials in Beijing and the $37 billion initial public offering of his company Ant Group was suspended. He has not been seen in public since,” the report further said.
It is also speculated that Ma’s comments angered the Chinese government as it viewed Ma’s comments as an attack on the authority of the Communist Party.
Ma vs the government
It was last month that Chinese market watchdog has launched an investigation into the alleged anti-competitive practices by Alibaba. Not only that, as a countermeasure, the company also laid out a “rectification plan” for Ma’s fintech venture Ant Group.
TechCrunch reported that the People’s Bank of China, the country’s central bank, had “summoned Ant Group for regulatory talks on December 26th, announcing a sweeping plan for the fintech firm to ‘rectify’ its regulatory violations”. It has also laid down a five-point compliance agenda for the company where it was asked to bring more transparency to its payments.
The report also said that The People’s Bank of China, China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, China Securities Regulatory Commission, and State Administration of Foreign Exchange will “interview Ant Group in the near future”.
The stringent move has been pulled as the Chinese government is looking to tighten its control over the expanding internet.
Ma is one of the wealthiest entrepreneurs in China and his company is one of the investors in India apps like Paytm, Policy Bazar, Oyo among others.