Alibaba 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.
Ma, who used to be an English teacher and founder of #Alibaba, also gives wishes to village teachers via a video on Wednesday, saying usually the activity is held in Sanya in southern Hainan but this year, due to #Covid19 it has to be done via video conference. pic.twitter.com/yfi7oPB5Sb— Qingqing_Chen (@qingqingparis) January 20, 2021
Ma's absence from public view in the past months, including missing the final episode of a TV show on which he was to appear as a judge, fuelled social media speculation over his whereabouts amid a Chinese regulatory clampdown on his sprawling business empire.
China's highest-profile entrepreneur has 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 (roughly Rs. 2,77,000 crores) IPO of Alibaba's Ant Group fintech arm.
The Financial Times reported Friday that Ma was replaced as a judge in the final episode in November of a game show for entrepreneurs called Africa's Business Heroes.
An Alibaba spokeswoman told Reuters that the change was due to a scheduling conflict, declining further comment.
While news coverage of Ma's absence from public view triggered speculation on Twitter, that is blocked in China, it was not a significant trending topic on social media in mainland China, where sensitive topics are subject to censorship.
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.
© Thomson Reuters 2021