Alibaba Group Founder Jack Ma, who has gone into hiding after a regulatory crackdown in China amid the massive Covid surge in the country, resurfaced in a short video on the New Year, citing a ‘difficult’ and ‘extraordinary’ year to the rural teachers in the country.

The billionaire was last spotted in Tokyo, living a quiet and peaceful life amid the big tech crackdown in his home country.

“Teachers have had a difficult year. You had to teach while protecting children,” he told about 100 teachers from China’s rural areas in an annual live video speech under his ‘Rural Teachers Initiative’, reports South China Morning Post.

“I hope to see you all offline as soon as possible,” he added.

The video address did not reveal his actual location as Ma was seen sitting behind a round table in front of a black wall adorned with artwork.

Dressed in a white shirt, Ma said he was “moved” that teachers still appeared to be “cheerful” and “committed”, and asked them to “take care of themselves and the kids during this time”.

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Financial Times reported in November last year that Ma and family were enjoying hot springs and ski resorts in the countryside outside Tokyo amid regular trips to the US and Israel.

“Since his fallout with Chinese authorities, Ma has been spotted in various countries, including Spain and the Netherlands,” the report mentioned.

Ma was reportedly living in central Tokyo for nearly six months, amid Beijing’s ongoing crackdown on the country’s technology sector.

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China’s market regulator in November last year had fined tech giants Alibaba, Baidu, Tencent and e-commerce platform JD.com Inc and Suning for violating the country’s anti-monopoly rules in 34 mergers and acquisition (M&A) deals in which they failed to declare the illegal implementation of the operating concentration.

Rattled by the alleged data leak of nearly one billion residents, the Chinese authorities also summoned executives and senior technicians from Alibaba Group, after the hacker claimed the data came from the Alibaba server.

Alibaba executives were called by the Shanghai police as the law enforcement agency suffered one of the biggest data breaches in history.

Ma has largely disappeared from public view since he criticized Chinese regulators two years ago.