Jack Ma, the Chinese billionaire and co-founder of international e-commerce site Alibaba, has reportedly not been seen in public for more than two months and has had many of his assets seized by the Chinese government.
The 56-year-old Ma – who was until recently worth $50.6 billion and has been outspoken in his support for a free-market economy – disappeared shortly after he publicly criticized the Chinese government's banking rules as out-of-date, calling policymakers "an old people's club" that stifled innovation.
"Today's financial system is the legacy of the Industrial Age," said Ma at the time. "We must set up a new one for the next generation and young people. We must reform the current system."
A week after the remarks, Ma disappeared and China cracked down on Ma's company Ant Group, a subsidiary of Alibaba that owns Alipay, China's largest digital payment platform with more than a billion users. Ant Group was set to go public in November with a massive $37 billion IPO and a $300 billion valuation – which would have been the largest in history – until it was suddenly stopped by the Chinese government.
The government also launched an anti-monopoly investigation into Alibaba in December.
Blair Silverberg, the CEO of a debt-financing startup called Capital, said that China's new regulations were specifically directed at Ma, saying they were created "so the government can assert its supremacy over [him]."
In addition to this, Ma was suddenly pulled from being a judge on "Africa's Business Heroes," a talent show that he created.
Alibaba's stocks have dipped following the news of Ma's disappearance.
As the news broke, a 2019 interview with escaped Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui has resurfaced, in which Wengui said China only gave billionaires two options in retirement: to either be imprisoned to be executed.
🔦The Chinese Communist Party is known for "disappearing" people who disagree with its policies or paint it in an unfavorable light, including doctors who tried to warn about COVID-19 and businessmen who criticized the government's response, artists and actors, professors, and religious dissidents.