Jack Ma: Alibaba founder back in China after long absence

Jack Ma: Alibaba founder back in China after long absence
Jack Ma gestures at an eventEPA

Alibaba founder Jack Ma, who has rarely been seen in public in the past three years, has resurfaced at a school in Hangzhou, a report says.

The 58-year-old has kept a low profile since criticising China’s financial regulators in 2020.

Mr Ma was the most high-profile Chinese billionaire to have disappeared amid a crackdown on tech entrepreneurs.

He recently returned to China after more than a year overseas, according to the South China Morning Post.

The Alibaba-owned newspaper said he had made a short stopover in Hong Kong, where he met friends and also briefly visited Art Basel, an international art fair.

It added that Mr Ma has been travelling to different countries to learn about agricultural technology, but made no reference as to why he had disappeared from public view in recent years.

Once the richest man in China, Mr Ma gave up control of financial technology giant Ant Group in January this year.

It was seen by some commentators as further evidence that he had fallen foul of the Chinese Communist Party for becoming outspoken and too powerful.

In October 2020, Mr Ma told a financial conference that traditional banks had a “pawn-shop mentality”.

The following month, Ant’s planned £26bn stock market flotation, which would have been the world’s largest, was cancelled at the last minute by Chinese authorities, who cited “major issues” over regulating the firm.

The first reported public sighting of Mr Ma since then was in January this year. The Financial Times newspaper said he had been seen in Tokyo, Japan. This led to rumours that he had been placed under house arrest or otherwise detained.

Some even questioned whether he was still alive.

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