Chinese tycoon Jack Ma has appeared in public for the first time in nearly three months – after speculation about his whereabouts following a clampdown by Beijing on his business empire.
The founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba was seen on Wednesday speaking by video in an online ceremony for an annual event for rural teachers.
The 50-second video made no mention of his disappearance.
He had last appeared publicly on 24 October when he took aim at China’s regulators in a Shanghai speech, saying they had an old-fashioned “pawnshop mentality” and were hampering innovation.
In November, authorities pulled the plug on plans for what would have been a record-breaking £26bn stock market float for finance giant Ant Group – founded by Mr Ma – with two days to spare.
Last month, anti-monopoly regulators warned executives at Alibaba and five other tech giants not to use their dominance to block new competitors.
More recently, Mr Ma was replaced in the final episode of a reality TV show on which he had been a judge.
The events had prompted online speculation about whether the ruling Communist regime wanted to make an example of the 56-year-old tycoon.
Hong Kong-listed shares in Alibaba – known for its annual Singles Day sales extravaganza – rose 8.5% after Mr Ma resurfaced.
The tycoon had previously often appeared in public to speak at conferences and other events, though less frequently than in 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Alibaba and Mr Ma’s charitable foundation both confirmed that the businessman, a former English teacher, had participated in the event on Wednesday.
The video also contained footage, dated 10 days ago, of him meeting staff at a school in Hangzhou.
The topic “Jack Ma makes his first public appearance” and his video address to teachers began trending on Chinese social media.
Mr Ma has stepped down from corporate positions at Alibaba and Ant Group but retains significant influence over the companies.