Jack Ma, the world’s most famous Chinese entrepreneur and founder of Alibaba, reappeared in a public video on Wednesday (Jan. 20, 2021) after nearly three months of disappearance. However, it is still unknown whether the famous and outspoken critic of the government has regained his freedom.
In a video labeled “Connecting with rural teachers on January 20,” Ma said, “For the past five years, every year on this day, we have held an award ceremony in Sanya to thank and honor teachers. This year, because of the Epidemic, we could not meet in Sanya, but our agreement will not change, and our tribute to teachers will not be absent.”
Ma, who was once an English teacher, did not mention his current highly publicized situation in the video, but said, “We will see you again when the epidemic is over.”
In response to media inquiries, Ma confirmed the authenticity of the video, saying that since 2015, the foundation has held the “Ma Yun Rural Teacher Award Ceremony” in Sanya, Hainan, on the 8th day of the lunar calendar each year.
Alibaba’s shares rose sharply in Hong Kong on Wednesday after the video of Ma’s appearance was released.
Ma was interviewed and admonished by regulators last October after criticizing the Chinese government’s financial regulators for their outdated thinking, and the unprecedented IPO of his financial technology company Ant Group was urgently called off early last November. He then disappeared from the public eye.
Observers generally agree that Ma’s bold statements, while they made a big splash, also undoubtedly put him in his current precarious position, directly leading to his disappearance from the public eye.
Derrick Scissors, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a U.S. think tank that has studied China’s political economy and financial issues for years, has told Voice of America that Ma is staying out of the public eye for now because he knows it’s best to keep a low profile for now, but doesn’t think he’ll go to jail. However, Gao Yu, a retired veteran Chinese journalist, said Ma is in grave danger.
Ma’s fintech company Ant Group was set to go public in Shanghai and Hong Kong simultaneously last November at an unprecedented $35 billion, but the planned IPO was abruptly halted by Chinese authorities two days before it was scheduled to go public, causing huge shocks and much speculation. Many believe that the directive to purge Ma and his company came directly from Xi Jinping, the powerful Communist Party leader.