Tech billionaire Jack Ma has made his first public appearance since he criticised Chinese regulators and state-owned banks.

Ma’s absence caused much speculation over his whereabouts, with authorities scrutinising his business.

But he appeared over video call on Wednesday (20 January), where he met with 100 rural teachers, according to local media.

Ma’s business Alibaba, which is an Amazon-style online marketplace in China, saw its shares surge five percent on the stock exchange in Hong Kong.

Jack Ma. Credit: Tianmu News
Jack Ma. Credit: Tianmu News

Tianmu News – which is owned and managed by the local Zhejiang government – reported that Mr Ma was speaking to the teachers as part of his charity.

The event usually takes place in the city of Sanya – a resort – but was held online this year due to Covid-19.

Ma said in his speech (as translated by BBC News): “We cannot meet in Sanya due to the epidemic.

“When the epidemic is over, we must find time to make up for everyone’s trip to Sanya, and then we will meet again!”

He could be seen wearing a blue jumper, sitting in a room with grey marble walls and a stripy carpet.

Neither the Tianmu News article nor the video made it clear where Ma was speaking from.

It was first noticed that he had appeared to step out of the limelight in November, when he disappeared as the public face of a talent show he created.

At the time, various reports suggested there may have been some sort of fall from grace in China after criticising authorities.

According to the Financial Times, 56-year-old Ma was replaced as a judge in the final of Africa’s Business Heroes, a Dragon’s Den-style TV show for budding entrepreneurs, while his photo was also removed from the judging webpage and he was left out of a promotional video.

The final took place back in November – shortly after Ma criticised China’s regulators and its state-owned banks in a speech. The Financial Times reports that he was then ‘dressed down by officials in Beijing’ and had the $37bn initial public offering of his company Ant Group suspended.

 

 

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