Jack Ma
In October, Ma publicly criticized China's banking rules.
Wang HE/Getty Images

Chinese billionaire businessman Jack Ma appeared during a videoconference on Wednesday after weeks of speculation about his whereabouts, according to a 50-second clip released by the Global Times, a Chinese government-owned  English-language newspaper. 

In the video call, Ma, who used to be an English teacher, spoke to 100 rural teachers across China as a part of his Jack Ma Rural Teachers Award ceremony, which recognizes outstanding teachers in impoverished and remote areas.

“Recently, my colleagues and I have been studying and thinking. We made a firmer resolution to devote ourselves to education philanthropy,” Ma said in the video, according to Bloomberg. “Working hard for rural revitalization and common prosperity is the responsibility for our generation of businessmen.”

A spokesperson for the Jack Ma Foundation told Insider that Ma participated in the online ceremony of the annual Rural Teacher Initiative event on January 20, but the time and date of the video have not been independently verified.

Questions began swirling about Ma’s whereabouts after the Alibaba and Ant Group founder failed to appear on the finale of the African talent show he created. Yahoo Finance reported on January 4 that Ma hadn’t been seen publicly in more than two months.

China has been cracking down on the tech mogul's business empire in recent months. 

In late December, Chinese regulators launched an antitrust investigation into Alibaba, the country's biggest e-commerce company, sometimes referred to as "the Amazon of China." And in November, China introduced regulations that halted what would have been a massive initial public offering for Ant Group, Ma's fintech company.

In October, the 56-year-old Alibaba founder had publicly criticized China's financial regulatory system at a conference in Shanghai. The next month, Ma was replaced as a judge on the African talent show he founded, "Africa's Business Heroes." An Alibaba representative told Insider that Ma could no longer be on the judging panel, which was filmed in November but has not yet been released, "due to a scheduling conflict."

Earlier this month, CNBC reporter David Faber said it was unlikely that Ma was "captured" by the Chinese state but that he was likely lying low in Hangzhou, where Alibaba is based. Ma stepped down as Alibaba's chairman in 2019. But in the past, prominent businessmen including retired real-estate tycoon Ren Zhiqiang and asset manager Xiao Jianhua have disappeared from public life after facing criticism from Chinese regulators, as Insider's Allana Akhtar reported.

Until recently, Ma was China's richest man, with a fortune of more than $60 billion. But Ma has lost billions over the past few months as China has tightened the rules for the fintech industry. Ma is now worth $52.9 billion, making him the fourth-richest person in China, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

A representative for Ant Group did not immediately respond to a request for comment. An Alibaba spokesperson referred Insider to the statement from the Jack Ma Foundation.

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