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
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
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