Chinese media have been ordered by the Beijing government not to report a competition investigation into web store Alibaba. It shows that Beijing regards the case of Alibaba and founder Jack Ma as politically sensitive.
The Chinese government has been targeting Ma’s group since the end of last year. A planned IPO of financial concern Ant Financial, known among others as Alipay payment service, was held up by regulators at the last minute in November. This happened after Ma made a speech in October criticising the state banks and financial regulators of the country that wanted to stop innovation.
In December, a competition investigation was conducted into Alibaba. The propaganda branch of the Chinese government ordered media to follow strictly the Communist Party’s line in their reporting on this and not to make extensive analyses. Also, they were not allowed to take statements from Alibaba in which that company denies having done anything wrong.
According to information scientist Xiao Qiang of the University of Berkeley, the decree is “strict and unusual”. According to him, the wording corresponds to decrees on reporting ‘very important political events’ such as ‘the trial of Bo Xilai’. That former politician was sentenced to life in prison for corruption.
The fact that Ma has not been seen in public since his speech in October also leads to speculation. Some say the billionaire is hiding, but there are also rumours that the Chinese government would hold him somewhere.