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Alibaba’s Ma Faces Social Media Backlash for Tiananmen Comment

Alibaba Group Chairman Jack Ma
Jack Ma, founder and chairman of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., said an outsider was needed to “stir things up” after restrictions on bank credit spurred property developers and entrepreneurs to seek funds from curbside lenders. Photographer: Jerome Favre/Bloomberg

Billionaire Jack Ma, Chairman of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., has been called to apologize for comments he made related to the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Activists have started an online petition and are asking Ma to rescind comments made in a South China Morning Post interview published July 13. Ma suggested former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping acted appropriately during the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen crackdown in which hundreds of people were killed when the army cleared protesters who had occupied the square in the center of Beijing, according to the newspaper.

Deng Xiaoping, then China’s top leader, had to make “cruel” decisions during the June 4 crackdown for the country’s stability, Ma said, according to the Post. Ma likened his own decisions at Alibaba to choices made by Deng.

Alibaba spokesman John Spelich didn’t immediately respond to three e-mails and a phone call asking about the petition.

Alibaba is expected by market analysts to issue an initial public offering as big as $100 billion as early as this year. The boycott may create a hiccup for Alibaba’s possible IPO and it’s unlikely to damage its business, said Mark Tanner, founder of China Skinny, a Shanghai-based research and marketing agency.

“Alibaba is so deeply entrenched I can’t imagine a huge amount of people to just stop using it,” said Tanner by phone.

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