UPDATED: January 20, 2021 10:48 IST
Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma met with 100 rural teachers in China via a video meeting on Wednesday, local government media reported, making the businessman’s first appearance in public since October.
Tianmu News, a news portal under Zhejiang Online, a government-backed news website, reported the meeting on Wednesday.
Alibaba founder Jack Ma’s absence from public view in the past two months, including missing the final episode of a TV show on which he was to appear as a judge, had fueled social media speculation over his whereabouts amid a Chinese regulatory clampdown on his sprawling business empire.
China’s highest-profile entrepreneur had not appeared in a public setting since a late October forum in Shanghai where he blasted China’s regulatory system in a speech that put him on a collision course with officials, resulting in the suspension of a $37 billion IPO of Alibaba’s Ant Group fintech arm.
Chinese regulators have zeroed in on Ma’s businesses since his October speech including launching an antitrust probe into Alibaba and ordering Ant to shake up its lending and other consumer finance businesses including the creation of a separate holding company to meet capital requirements.
“I think he’s been told to lay low,” said Duncan Clark, chairman of Beijing-based tech consultancy BDA China. “This is a pretty unique situation, more linked to the sheer scale of Ant and the sensitivities over financial regulation,” he said.