After reports of Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma having gone missing for weeks, new reports claim that he may be "embracing supervision". This has further fueled speculation that the Chinese billionaire might have been arrested by Chinese authorities and has been detained somewhere, according to local media reports.
However, nothing is known about Ma's whereabouts with many doubting that Chinese authorities have arrested and detaining him. Speculation is also rife that Ma has been hiding to avoid arrest. The 56-year-old hasn't been seen publicly after officials hit back at him following an October speech in which he complained at a business conference that China's regulators and state-run banks are hampering opportunities.
Has Ma Been Arrested?
Local media reports have been hinting at a possible arrest of Jack Ma, China's most famous billionaire, following his controversial speech that drew the ire of Chinese authorities. On Tuesday, Hong Kong-based The Asia Times quoted Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily as saying "Jack Ma is embracing supervision."
This has given rise to speculation that Ma may have already been arrested or placed under house arrest, with the Chinese government tightlipped about his whereabouts. Chinese authorities are infamous for not revealing information on arrests of prominent personalities. Given this, 'embracing supervision' could well mean Ma has already landed up in jail and may have already been facing questions from Chinese officials.
It was earlier reported that the billionaire failed to appear in the final episode of his own talent show, Africa's Business Heroes, where another he was replaced by another Alibaba executive at the eleventh hour.
Understandably, not everything is well at Alibaba's end. Ma's disappearance comes after his controversial speech in October where he criticized China's regulation system for stifling innovation and likened global banking rules to an "old people's club". He also called the country's banks "pawnshops".
Coincidently, it happened just a few days before his company Ant Group was about to launch one of the world's biggest IPOs worth $37 billion in Hong Kong and Shanghai.
Media Turns Ma Villain
Following Ma's controversial speech, Chinese media, which so long had projected Ma as the face of China, has made a U-turn and has been trying o change his image from "Uncle Horse" (Ma in Chinese means horse)" to a cruel and money-grabbing "vampire" businessman. So much so that the Chinese media has also tried to brand him as someone who exploits the poor to make money.
The People's Daily in a November report had mentioned that Ma couldn't have taken Alibaba to such heights without the Chinese government's policies. "Ma Yun is savvy, but without the support of national policies, Ali will not be able to become a trillion business empire," it had reported.
A large section also believes that the sudden announcement to halt the IPO of Ant Group is a result of Ma's criticism of the Chinese authoritarian regime. However, Ma isn't the only one who has offended the Chinese government. Another Chinese billionaire, JD.com's Liu Qiangdong has also come under Chinese government's "supervision". Chinese regulators have increased scrutiny over the Qiangdong-led company whose digital company JD Digital is eyeing to go public in future.