What do you think when a tech billionaire goes missing after having a major conflict with a conservative Chinese government?
“The government is behind his abduction! “The Prime Minister is involved!” “He is already dead by now!”
Well, the internet is abuzz with such rumors when Jack Ma, the co-founder and former executive chairman of Alibaba Group goes missing from the public eye!
Speculations have been raised around the whereabouts of Jack Ma after viral reports saying the high-profile businessman has not made any public appearances in more than two months.
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The co-founder of Alibaba and multinational technology giant failed to show up in the last episode of his own talent show, Africa’s Business Heroes, a show aimed to offer a platform for newbie African entrepreneurs to compete for prize money of US $1.5 million. Not only this, but his pictures were also removed from the show’s official website.
His missing looks particularly fishy, as he was reportedly in direct conflict with a communist government led by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
So what happened exactly? What is the reason or reasons behind the sudden disappearance of China’s richest man?
It all started with Jack Ma’s controversial speech—which he gave to the Bund summit on October 24th— where he criticized the state’s despotic regulations and dominance of banking.
“We shouldn’t use the way to manage a train station to regulate an airport,” Ma said in the speech. “We cannot regulate the future with yesterday’s means. It is impossible for the pawnshop mentality t0 support the financial demand of global development over the next 30 years,” said Ma, who founded Alibaba in a one-room apartment in China 21 years ago. “We must leverage or technological capabilities today and build a credit system based on big data, to get rid of the pawnshop mentality.”
After the speech, the officials in Beijing hit back Ma and suspended the $37 billion initial public offerings of his Ant Group upon the direct order of President Xi in November.
Ant Group was gearing up for what would be the world’s biggest initial offering before it was suspended by Beijing – just 48 hours prior to the start of trading in Hong Kong and Shanghai. The company was valued at $216 billion before the suspension, higher than the valuations of China’s largest banks and also those of the UK and the US.
The earlier speculations suggested that the suspension was made due to “changes to the financial technology environment and other major issues,” but business analysts perceived that the action was nothing but an open warning to Ma.
One Chinese publication even wrote that the government is giving an open warning that no matter how successful private entrepreneurs would become, the government would still have the power to pull the strings anytime they deemed necessary.
It’s not the first time a Chinese billionaire has gone missing after a conflict with the government! In fact, a number of successful Chinese entrepreneurs never appeared publicly; it is rumored that their lovers, wives, and rivals are involved in their disappearance. Only a few of them re-appeared, stating that they were supposedly aiding the authorities.
Ma’s Alibaba and Ant Group were under investigation as a part of China’s anti-corruption drive on Christmas Eve, which disbarred Ma from travelling outside China. This investigation caused Alibaba’s share to drop by a quarter after a record surge due to October’s speech, leading Ma to drop down to the third position in China’s wealthiest persons list, with Pinduoduo chief executive Colin Huang and Tencent Holdings’ Pony Ma Huateng holding top positions.
According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, the estimated current worth of Ma is $63.1 billion.
Ma was also involved in many charity related activities. Recently in spring, he donated tens of millions of face masks worldwide. He collaborated with his longtime partner Joe Tsai to donate 2,000 ventilators to New York. Both US President Trump and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo appreciated his kind gesture.
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In August, Mr. Ma took to Twitter to congratulate 20 entrepreneurs participating in his month-long contest talent show called “Business heroes.” He tweeted, “I can’t wait to meet them!” This was one of his last public statements/tweets.
Despite being a significant contributor to China’s sky-rocketing economy, it appears that even the 56-year-old entrepreneur is not immune to China’s brutal state regulations.
In fact, many Twitterati are speculating how his disappearance would bring a major setback to China’s overall image:
People are also doubting that the Chinese government might have held him captive in a re-education camp:
Some are even claiming that the Chinese Prime Minister is behind his disappearance:
While we wait for Ma’s safe return, do like our Facebook page to keep track on the latest developments in the billionaire’s mysterious disappearance.