- Yahoo Finance reported that Jack Ma, the Chinese billionaire who founded Alibaba and Ant Group, hasn’t been seen publicly in more than two months.
- Late last year, Chinese regulators launched an antitrust investigation into Alibaba and introduced regulations that halted Ant Group’s initial public offering.
- Other prominent businessmen, like Ren Zhiqiang, a retired real-estate tycoon, and Xiao Jianhua, an asset manager, also disappeared after facing criticism from Chinese regulators.
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The Chinese billionaire and Alibaba founder Jack Ma has been noticeably absent from public life.
Yahoo Finance reported on Sunday that Ma hadn’t been seen publicly in more than two months. Ma missed an appearance in November on a TV talent show he founded. Another Alibaba executive replaced Ma, and the show’s website removed Ma’s picture, The Telegraph reported.
Chinese regulators recently opened an antitrust investigation into Alibaba, Ma’s e-commerce giant. Ant Group, Ma’s financial-services company, has drawn the ire of Chinese banks that accused it of stealing business from them. The country introduced regulations in November that halted Ant Group’s initial public offering.
Ant Group and Alibaba were not immediately available for comment.
Ma reportedly criticized global financial regulators at a conference in Shanghai in late October, calling them an “old people’s club” ill-suited to oversee Chinese tech innovation. Duncan Clark, the chairman of the Beijing-based tech firm BDA China, speculated that Ma could have been told to “lay low” because of the new rules, Reuters reported.
While Ma may be trying to stay out of the public eye during the investigation, his absence is reminiscent of other Chinese businessmen who disappeared after sparring with regulators.
Ren Zhiqiang, a retired real-estate tycoon, fell off the radar in March after accusing the Communist Party of mishandling the coronavirus pandemic, The New York Times reported. Beijing later sentenced Ren, 69, to 18 years in prison.
Xiao Jianhua, an asset manager, was abducted from a hotel in Hong Kong in January 2017, Reuters reported. Xiao disappeared into Chinese custody, and the country later seized parts of his company, Tomorrow Group, The Times reported in July. Regulators had accused Xiao and other tycoons of taking would-be investors away from Chinese stock markets, The Guardian said.
Meng Hongwei, the former head of Interpol, disappeared in September 2018 during a trip to China from France, the BBC reported. Last January, China sentenced him to 13 1/2 years in prison on bribery charges.
Meng’s wife, who first reported her husband missing, told The Guardian in 2018 she believed that her husband was innocent and that his detention was politically motivated.
“It’s not justice,” she said, adding: “I think the anti-corruption campaign in China has already been damaged. It has become a way of attacking people who are your enemy.”
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