After a series of criticism against the Chinese government, Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba and one of the world's most renowned business magnate and philanthropist, has reportedly gone missing. Suspicion has swirled around the tech mogul after reports revealed that he had not made a public appearance in over two months.
Ma was absent from the final episode of his very own talent show, "Africa's Business Heroes," where the Alibaba founder gives African entrepreneurs a chance to win the US $1,5 million to fund their startups. Even worse, Ma's picture has been taken off the judging page on the website.
However, a spokesperson for Alibaba confirmed on behalf of Ma that he was absent due to "scheduling conflicts."
"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)," the statement reads as reported by Financial Times.
Jack Ma's Controversial Speech
The reports surfaced several weeks after Ma's controversial speech in Shanghai last October, where he criticized the government's regulation system for stifling innovation and its state-owned banks.
"Today's financial system is the legacy of the Industrial Age. We must set up a new one for the next generation and young people. We must reform the current system," said Ma during the speech.
A week later, the government suspended ant Group's IPO (initial public offer) worth the US $37 billion. Ant Group is one of Ma's business empire and an affiliate company of Alibaba Group, and the flamboyant boss has not made a public appearance since then. Ma has also been advised not to leave the country.
"I believe the Chinese government stepped in because they realised that they had to regulate these companies, so that they don't... get too big," veteran investor and the founder of Mobius Capital Partners, Mark Mobius told CNBC.
"The Chinese government is waking up to the fact that they cannot allow these companies that dominate a particular sector and particularly the financial sector."
For the last few months, the Chinese government has been trying to crack down on unhealthy monopoly practices within the country's internet sector.
Last week, as previously reported, the People's Bank of China demanded Ant Group execs formulate their business' rectification plan to stop its monopoly practices. Regulators believe that the company is too powerful that it uses its overpowered market position to hurt its customers' interests.
"The rectification is an opportunity for Ant Group to strengthen the foundation for our business to grow with full compliance, and to continue focusing on innovating for social good and serving small businesses," the company says in a statement, as reported by CNBC.
Formerly an English teacher, Ma founded Alibaba in 1999. Despite stepping down as the chairman in 2019, Ma remains one of Alibaba's largest shareholders.