Chinese billionaire Jack Ma disappears from his own show after criticizing regime

Jack Ma has been replaced as a judge on Africa's Business Heroes (Image: AFP via Getty Images)

Jack Ma, who co-founded the Alibaba Group, has been replaced as a judge on Africa’s Business Heroes shortly after he made a speech criticizing the Chinese banking system.

One of China’s richest men has gone missing from the talent show he created.

The 56-year-old made his fortune after creating Alibaba, dubbed Asia’s Amazon, and was once a favorite of the communist regimen in China.

Jack Ma, who is reportedly worth just shy of $50billion (£36billion), has been replaced as a judge in the final of Africa’s Business Heroes.

His photograph was then removed from the judging panel’s web page and he was later left out of a promotional video.

Ma’s absence from the final, which took place in November, came shortly after he criticised China’s regulators and its state-owned banks, the Financial Times reported.

A $37billion public offering of his company Ant Group was suspended after he made the speech.

He has not been seen in public since.

In recent weeks there has been no activity on his Twitter account – which usually carried several tweets a day.

A spokesperson for Alibaba said: “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).”

In his speech Ma heavily criticized the “pawnshop mentality” of Chinese banks, and accused them of slowing down innovation.

When Chinese president Xi Jinping heard about the remarks he personally ordered the suspension of the public offering, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Days later, China unveiled new antitrust rules which hugely devalued the company, before regulators conducted an anti-trust probe into Ant Group.

Between 2016 and 2017 a number of Chinese billionaires went missing. Some never re-appeared – it is suspected that wives, lovers or business rivals had a hand in their disappearance. Others however, reappeared, stating that they were ‘helping the authorities’.

In March, a property tycoon disappeared after he called President Xi Jinping a ‘clown’ for his handling of the coronavirus crisis.

Friends of Ren Zhiqiang say he was later sentenced to 18 years in prison after he apparently “voluntarily confessed” to various crimes of corruption.

China targets Jack Ma’s Alibaba empire in monopoly probe

China kicked off an investigation into alleged monopolistic practices at Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and summoned affiliate Ant Group Co. to a high-level meeting over financial regulations, escalating scrutiny over the twin pillars of billionaire Jack Ma’s internet empire.

The State Administration for Market Regulation is investigating Alibaba, the top antitrust watchdog said in a statement without providing further details. Regulators including the central bank and banking watchdog will separately summon affiliate Ant to a meeting intended to drive home increasingly stringent financial regulations, which now pose a threat to the growth of the world’s biggest online financial services firm. Ant said in a statement on its official WeChat account it will study and comply with all requirements.

Once hailed as drivers of economic prosperity and symbols of the country’s technological prowess, Alibaba and rivals like Tencent Holdings Ltd. face increasing pressure from regulators after amassing hundreds of millions of users and gaining influence over almost every aspect of daily life in China.

Alibaba’s Hong Kong stock slid as much as 7.7% to a five-month intraday trough, while Tencent and internet services giant Meituan declined more than 1%. Shares in SoftBank Group Corp., Alibaba’s largest shareholder, erased gains to trade as much as 2.7% lower in Tokyo.


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