This comes amidst Ma’s deepening conflict with the Chinese government.
Ma was to preside as a judge in the final episode of his own talent show — ‘Africa’s Business Heroes’– but he was not present, and he was replaced by an Alibaba executive, according to reports, which also highlighted that Ma’s photos have been removed from the show’s website.
This particular show provides a platform for African entrepreneurs to compete for a slice of US$1.5 million in prize money.
“Due to a schedule conflict Mr. Ma could no longer be part of the finale judge panel of Africa’s Business Heroes earlier this year (2020),” reports quoted an Alibaba spokesperson as saying.
Over the past few months Ma’s Ant Group has been under scrutiny after he criticised the Chinese regime in his controversial speech delivered in Shanghai on October 24th.
Ma had criticised China’s regulations for stifling innovation and said that Chinese banks operated with a “pawnshop” mentality.
He further said “Today’s financial system is the legacy of the Industrial Age… We must set up a new one for the next generation and young people. We must reform the current system.”
According to a report by Reuters, several senior financial regulatory officials were furious at Ma’s criticism, and one Reuters’ source said the speech was a “punch in their faces.”
Over a week later, this criticism saw Chinese officials reprimanding Ma and suspending Ant Group’s $37-billion initial public offering, which had already received approval to go-ahead from China’s securities watchdog.
The Shanghai Stock Exchange has now said that Ant Group had reported “significant issues such as changes in (the) financial technology regulatory environment.”
Chinese authorities, reportedly, launched an anti-monopoly investigation into Alibaba in late December, and told Ant Group to restructure its operations.
Reports also noted that the general office of the State Council has supposedly compiled a report on public sentiment about Ma’s speech and submitted it to senior leaders including China’s President Xi Jinping.
Ma last tweeted on October 10th.