The resurfacing of Alibaba’s billionaire founder has sent the e-commerce firm’s shares soaring more than 8% in Hong Kong. Jack Ma resurfaced as he spoke to 100 rural teachers through a video call, three months after his last public appearance in October.
A recording of the call was first posted on a news portal backed by the government of Zhejiang, the eastern province where Alibaba is headquartered, and the video was verified by an Alibaba spokesperson.
Speculations about Ma’s whereabouts rose after media reported in December that he skipped the taping of a TV program he created.
Ma has seen his e-commerce empire Alibaba and fintech giant Ant Group increasingly in the crosshairs of the Chinese authorities in recent months.
Ma last appeared publicly at a conference where he blasted China’s financial regulatory system in front of a room of high-ranked officials. His controversial remark, according to reports, prompted the Chinese regulator to abruptly halt Ant’s initial public offering, which would have been the biggest public share sale of all time.
Ant has since been working on corporate restructuring and regulatory compliance under the directions of the government. Alibaba, China’s largest e-commerce platform, also came under scrutiny as market regulators opened an investigation into its alleged monopolistic practices.
Some argue that the recent clampdown on Jack Ma’s internet empire signals Beijing’s growing unease with the country’s super-rich and private-sector power brokers.
In the 50-second video, Ma addressed the 100 teachers receiving the Jack Ma Rural Teachers Award, which was set up by the Jack Ma Foundation to identify outstanding rural teachers every year.
It’s unclear where Ma was speaking from, but the video briefly shows him visiting a rural boarding school in Zhejiang on January 10. The award ceremony was moved online this year due to the pandemic, Ma told the award recipients.