China Causes Stock Panic by Arresting Man Named ‘Ma’ for Subversion

A Chinese day trader reacts as he watches a stock ticker at a local brokerage house on Aug
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Chinese state media announced on Tuesday that a man “surnamed Ma” was arrested on suspicion of “colluding with outside forces” to “subvert the State and split the country.” Stock prices tumbled as investors worried the suspect could be Alibaba founder Jack Ma, who was China’s richest man until he dared to challenge Chinese Communist policies.

China’s state-run Global Times refused to identify the man beyond his surname, but coyly acknowledged the intense online interest in how his name is spelled with “three Chinese characters”:

Ma, who was born in 1985 in Wenzhou of Zhejiang Province, works as the director of hardware research and development department of an IT company, the Global Times has learned. Being brainwashed by outside anti-China forces, Ma has viewed anti-China forces as “mentors” and become one of their tools to contain China. 

Since March 2022, with the incitement of an anti-China figure, Ma created an online anonymous group to play the role as agent of outside forces, spread rumors and disinformation and release so-called independence declaration to split the country and subvert the state. 

According to information the Global Times has acquired, aside from forming illegal organizations and making political outlines to subvert the state, Ma also targeted young people and university students, inciting them to join in activities that smear the country and the people. 

The Global Times breathlessly accused the suspect of setting up a “temporary parliament for the Chinese mainland” and drafting new “laws and institutions” to prepare for his grand scheme of “subverting the Chinese government with support from overseas.” The article implied he did most of these things by merely writing social media posts.


Jack Ma, CEO of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, speaks in Paris on May 16, 2019. (PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

Many observers immediately assumed Jack Ma was the target, since the flamboyant billionaire was “disappeared” by the regime in October 2020 after criticizing Communist economic policies at an international forum in Shanghai. 

Ma reappeared in early 2021 with a very subdued attitude, a shattered financial empire, and $10 billion shaved off his net worth. His rough treatment by the Communist Party proved to be the opening salvo in a campaign to teach Chinese tech billionaires that the Politburo and dictator Xi Jinping are the ultimate bosses. Much of 2021 was occupied by a regulatory crackdown on China’s biggest companies, which was seemingly concluded or suspended by the coronavirus outbreaks this year.

China's President Xi Jinping (C) and other leaders sing the national anthem at a ceremony marking the centennial of the May Fourth Movement, a landmark student protest against colonialism and imperialism, in Beijing's Great Hall of the People on April 30, 2019. - Xi Jinping exhorted China's youth on April 30 to obey the Communist Party as he marked the centennial of a student revolt, one of several sensitive anniversaries Beijing faces this year. (Photo by GREG BAKER / AFP) (Photo credit should read GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)

China’s President Xi Jinping (C) and other leaders at a ceremony in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on April 30, 2019. (GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)

Investors are so nervous about the wild swings taken by the paranoid Chinese Communist Party during its latest coronavirus outbreak that Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group lost $26 billion in stock value on Tuesday morning. Alibaba stock is now down 66 percent from its peak value before Jack Ma criticized Communist policy.

The spelling of the suspect’s name in Chinese led to speculation that the suspect might be Jack Ma’s son Jerry, a billionaire in his own right whose profile lines up with some (but not all) of the information disclosed by the Global Times. As the China Reader blog explained:

In Chinese news, a given name is often anonymized by changing to the character 某 mou. But in this case, reports call the alleged offender Ma Mou-Mou—i.e, two mou rather than one. This does not match Jack Ma’s Chinese name, which consists of only one character, 云Yun.

It would, however, match the name of Ma’s son, Jerry Ma, who’s Chinese name Ma Yuankun consists of two characters for the given name. It would also match his daughter, Ma Yuanbao.

Jerry Ma has business dealings of his own, of course, and touts an estimated net worth of USD 3 billion.

Not much firm information about the Ma family has been released to the public — Jack Ma and his wife Cathy Zhang reportedly have a third child whose name is not public knowledge — but by most accounts Jerry Ma is several years younger than the 1985 birthdate given by the Global Times for the subversion suspect, and his sister is several years younger than him.

Whether the man arrested on Tuesday has any connection to Jack Ma or not, the tech mogul is still in deep trouble with the Communist Party. Jack Ma disappeared again earlier this year, and in February the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), China’s anti-corruption agency, began investigating his ties to several state-owned enterprises.

Ma might be going down because he was linked to Zhou Jiangyong, a top Communist Party official indicted for bribery last month. Zhou allegedly abused his office to extract bribes from numerous companies, including Ma’s Ant Group, in exchange for facilitating deeply discounted real estate purchases.


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