First public appearance in nearly three months for Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma, after criticism of Chinese regulatory system
Chinese billionaire Jack Ma’s unexplained absence has ended, after he appeared in public for the first time in nearly three months.
His disappearance triggered concern, after Ma faced a crackdown on his business empire by Chinese authorities.
Jack Ma had not been seen since 24 October in Shanghai, after he publicly hit out at China’s regulatory system in a speech that put him on a collision course with Beijing.
Some felt this speech in which he was critical of China’s banking regulatory system, resulted in the suspension of a $37 billion IPO of Alibaba’s Ant Group fintech arm.
Jack Ma was also abruptly replaced as a judge in the final episode in November of a game show for entrepreneurs called Africa’s Business Heroes.
And Chinese regulators have also focused on Ma’s businesses since his October speech.
In late December for example, Chinese officials launched an antitrust probe into Alibaba.
Meanwhile Ant Group was also recently ordered to shake up its lending and other consumer finance businesses, including the creation of a separate holding company to meet capital requirements.
Ma was seen on Wednesday speaking by video in an online ceremony for an annual event for rural teachers, Sky News reported.
The 50-second video made no mention of his disappearance.
Former English teacher Jack Ma co-founded Alibaba in 1999, and under his stewardship it became one of the world’s biggest e-commerce firms.
His decision to create a company in the 1990s was a risk, as at that time it was the norm in China for most companies to be state-owned enterprises.
His hard work (he believes staff should work 12 hour days, six days a week) helped him become one of the world’s richest men, with a fortune worth approximately $48.2 billion.
Alibaba itself is worth $635bn and employs 117,600 staff.
The Alibaba co-founder is a Communist Party member, and he is known for having high-profile friends amongst China’s billionaire moguls and movie stars.
He also maintains a mandatory tai chi programme for staff at Alibaba and has previously starred in a short kung fu film alongside stars such as Jet Li.