Beijing: Alibaba owner Jack Ma has been spotted in Hong Kong for the first time since a controversial speech made last year in which he criticised the Chinese government's business practices. The news of Ma making what appears to be one of his first trips to Hong Kong since the controversy has seen speculation rise amongst investors.
Company sources have revealed that Ma was present at Alibaba's Hangzhou campus during the firm's annual "Ali Day" staff and family event. He has made a limited number of public appearances since last year. On September 1, photographs of Ma visiting several agricultural greenhouses in the eastern Zhejiang province, home to both Alibaba and its fintech affiliate Ant, went viral on Chinese social media. This was immediately followed up by a massive $15.5 billion investment by Alibaba in China's wealth-sharing initiative by 2025
Jack Ma's speech made in October, in which he criticised Chinese financial regulators, resulted in the shelving of Ant Group's mega IPO. He was then not seen in public until January when his reappearance in an online conference put to rest rumours of his sudden disappearance.
Alibaba and its tech rivals have been the target of a wide-ranging regulatory crackdown on issues ranging from monopolistic behaviour to consumer rights. The e-commerce behemoth was fined a record $2.75 billion in April over monopoly violations. Earlier this year, regulators also imposed a sweeping restructuring on Ant, whose botched $37 billion initial public offering in Hong Kong and on Shanghai's Nasdaq-style STAR Market would have been the world's largest.