A Chinese billionaire has mysteriously disappeared from his own reality show after hitting out at the Chinese government.
Jack Ma has been missing from public view since October and he has been removed from a Chinese equivalent of Dragon’s Den.
The 56-year-old is worth a reported £35 billion after founding a company similar to Amazon called Alibaba, and had a seat on entrepreneur-backing reality show Africa’s Business Heroes.
However, he has been removed from the judging panel’s webpage and has been cut out of promotional videos – sparking concern about his whereabouts.
The Sun reports a spokesperson for Alibaba saying: “Due to a schedule conflict Mr Ma could no longer be part of the finale judge panel of Africa’s Business Heroes earlier this year.”
The final had taken place weeks after Mr Ma hit out at China’s regulators and state-owned banks in a speech where he described Chinese banks as operating with a “pawnshop” mentality.
He made his comments during a conference in October – with outlets reporting the Chinese state has turned against him.
In November the Wall Street Journal reported that Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping personally intervened to derail Mr Ma's latest company, Ant Group, being listed on the stock market.
While fans of the star have grown concerned after his once usually highly active Twitter account fell silent.
It is reported there is "no suggestion so far that he has come to physical harm."
The Chinese government has previously been suspected of acting with ruthless efficiency to silence critics.
In 2018, Winnie the Pooh was banned in the communist country after President Xi was unflatteringly compared to the honey-loving bear.
Chinese censors have swiftly eradicated online memes that compared the President to Pooh – with images of Xi walking alongside former US President Barack Obama as the bear and hyperactive tiger, Tigger, respectively.
The 2018 film Christopher Robin was banned from release in China due to it including the Winnie the Pooh character.
However, President Xi has been lampooned for his icy reaction to the cartoon character, with American comedy South Park mocking the state’s brutal treatment of the fictional character.
While Indian soldiers have also used the bears image to mock President Xi following Chinese incursions on Indian territory in 2020.