Billionaire Jack Ma appears for first time since bashing Chinese authorities

Tech tycoon Jack Ma has broken his three month silence after criticising Chinese regulators and state-owned banks.

The whereabouts of Ma – whose Chinese Amazon-style business has made him a billionaire – became the centre of speculation as authorities scrutinised his work.

On Wednesday, the Alibaba owner dialled in from an undisclosed location to meet with 100 rural teachers in a video call, according to local media.

But the topic of Ma's disappearance went unmentioned, as he appeared in public for the first time since October 24 when he slammed China's regulators as having an old-fashioned "pawnshop mentality" and were hampering innovation.

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Resurfacing for the video call, bolstered Hong Kong-listed shares in Alibaba up 8.5%.

Zhejiang government-owned media outlet, Tianmu News reported that the online conversation was part of his charity which usually puts on an annual event in the city of Sanya.

Ma said in his speech (as translated by BBC News ): "We cannot meet in Sanya due to the epidemic.

"When the epidemic is over, we must find time to make up for everyone's trip to Sanya, and then we will meet again!"

The video also contained footage, dated 10 days ago, of him meeting staff at a school in Hangzhou, Sky News reports.

Ma appeared on screen wearing a blue jumper, with plants either side of him.

His first noticeable step back from the limelight was in November, when he pulled out of Dragon's Den-style TV show, Africa's Business Heroes.

It was suggested at the time that he may have suffered a fall from grace in China after criticising authorities.

According to the Financial Times, any sign of 56-year-old Ma on material for Africa's Business Heroes was removed and replaced for the show's grand finale.

The FT reports that he was then 'dressed down by officials in Beijing' and had the $37bn initial public offering of his company Ant Group suspended.

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