China halts new enrolments at business school backed by Jack Ma: Sources

The enrolment halt comes amid Beijing's crackdown on Mr Jack Ma's businesses.
The enrolment halt comes amid Beijing's crackdown on Mr Jack Ma's businesses.PHOTO: AFP

SHANGHAI (REUTERS) - The Beijing authorities have forced an elite business school backed by Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma to halt enrolments, the Financial Times said on Friday (April 9), citing sources familiar with the matter.

The clampdown on the school, founded in 2015 by Mr Ma to train China's next generation of entrepreneurs, comes as his business empire faces government scrutiny.

Hupan Academy, based in the city of Hangzhou, where Alibaba has its headquarters, suspended a first-year class set to begin in late March, the newspaper said.

Alibaba and Hupan Academy did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Tuition for the three-year programme amounts to 580,000 yuan (S$119,000). Students listed in the incoming class of 2019 included executives from Keep, a successful Chinese exercise company, and fast-growing domestic chip firm Horizon Robotics.

The school is among initiatives launched by Mr Ma related to education, a sector the erstwhile English teacher has committed to since stepping down from his role as Alibaba's chairman in 2019.

The enrolment halt comes amid Beijing's crackdown on Mr Ma's businesses. Late last year, Ant Group, a financial affiliate of Alibaba, abruptly suspended a planned US$37 billion (S$50 billion) initial public offering in Shanghai following pressure from the authorities.

The botched listing came after Mr Ma made comments in public criticising China's financial regulators. He has yet to make a public appearance since, save for a brief 50-second video clip broadcast to a group of teachers.