Is Jack Ma dead? Conspiracies go wild after China's richest man goes 'missing'
Ma's financial tech company ANT Group was ordered to scale back operations, and an initial public offering was suspended
Jack Ma, the founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba, has reportedly not been seen in public for several weeks, leading to speculation that the Chinese billionaire could be missing or even dead. In August 2019, a fellow Chinese billionaire predicted that Ma would either be jailed or end up dead. Guo Wengui, who fled China as a fugitive in 2014, said he believed the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) wanted to "take back" Ma's ANT Group, according to Business Insider.
Ma failed to appear in the final episode of his own talent show — 'Africa’s Business Heroes' — which gives aspiring entrepreneurs in Africa a chance to compete for $1.5 million. “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)," a spokesperson claimed. However, the Chinese billionaire has reportedly not made a public appearance in two months — and it is suspected that his disappearance is related to his criticism of financial regulators in his country, whom he reportedly described as a "pawnshop" and an "old people's club."
“Today’s financial system is the legacy of the Industrial Age. We must set up a new one for the next generation and young people. We must reform the current system,” Ma said in a speech on October 24.
The CCP regime launched an antitrust investigation against Alibaba Group Holding following Ma's comments. Meanwhile, his financial tech company ANT Group was ordered to scale back operations, and an initial public offering of the conglomerate — worth $37 billion — was reportedly suspended under direct orders from Chinese President Xi Jinping.
According to the report, Ma was ordered not to leave the country and a staggering $10 billion was wiped from his wealth following the antitrust probe. The ANT Group subsequently agreed to redress the company's insurance, lending, and wealth management services. “The rectification is an opportunity for ANT Group to strengthen the foundation for our business to grow with full compliance, and to continue focusing on innovating for social good and serving small businesses,” it said in a statement.
Such developments suggest that China's tech giants are under the close scrutiny of the CCP regime, according to some observers. “There is a wave of similar signals showing that China’s tech giants are staying on the radar of authorities. The anti-monopoly drafted guidance and antitrust review are just two of those signals,” said Bruce Pang, head of macro and strategy research at China Renaissance Securities Hong Kong.
It's worth noting that Beijing has a history of engaging in merciless tactics against its dissidents. In March 2020, a property mogul reportedly disappeared after he called Jinping a "clown" for his handling of the Covid-19 crisis. Ren Zhiqiang's friends said they could not contact him in the days after his controversial comments. Six months later, he was sentenced to 18 years in prison after he "voluntarily and truthfully confessed" to crimes of corruption, the Daily Mail reported.
In 2017, billionaire financier Xiao Jianhua was snatched from a Hong Kong hotel and transported to the mainland. While there is no official word of his current whereabouts, Jianhua is said to have remained under house arrest ever since, according to the newspaper.