People are lining up in droves after rumors spread that billionaire Jack Ma is giving out cash to Chinese seniors

jack me alibaba ant group
Jack Ma in China in 2019.

  • Online rumors in China are claiming that Alibaba billionaire Jack Ma is giving away money.
  • The gifts are said to be made in honor of Lunar New Year, but authorities warn it may be a scam.
  • Ma, through his companies, has previously given millions in LNY gifts to customers.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Chinese seniors are lining up at banks across the country after rumors swirled online that reclusive billionaire Jack Ma was giving away pieces of his fortune, UPI reported,

Many began lining up at banks across Fuzhou, in the Jiangxi Province, after a WeChat group claimed that Ma was giving away 200 Chinese yuan – the equivalent of $30 – to anyone 60 or older who could show proof of age. 

The gift was said to be in honor of Lunar New Year, which began on February 11 and is observed until February 17. During that time, the country generally shuts down, and gifts of money are exchanged in special red envelopes meant to bring prosperity in the new year. 

But authorities warned seniors not to trust rumors about a potential gift, and the Fuzhou Municipal Public Security Bureau issued an emergency notice warning citizens of a possible scam.

Ma has in the past offered special deals and promotions during Lunar New Year, largely through Alibaba and its subsidiary companies. In 2014, Ma’s Alibaba issued 99,999 online coupons to users via WeChat, worth around 990,000 yuan, or $153,000. In 2016, Alipay, the mobile payment branch of Alibaba, gave away US$120 million in a TV promotion. And in 2018, Alibaba offered a “digital red envelope” AR game, paying out around US$820 million to customers. 

Ma, the founder of Alibaba and Ant Group, has scarcely been seen in public over the past three months, though he was reportedly spotted golfing at a luxury golf resort on the island province of Hainan last week. 

Ma disappeared from public life at the end of last year after Chinese authorities cracked down on his business empire in November and launched an anti-trust investigation into Alibaba in December.

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Photos show Lunar New Year celebrations with caution amid an ongoing pandemic

lunar new year
An immediate family from a distance virtually join a family reunion dinner via a phone call on the eve of the lunar new year at home on February 11, 2021 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

  • Families opt for distanced or virtual celebrations amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Limited public festivities continued to take place with health safety precautions in mind.
  • Here’s what celebrating one of the most important holidays in the Chinese culture looks like amid the pandemic.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to keep the world indoors, families are forced to ring in the Year of the Ox with health safety in mind.

Last year at the onset of the pandemic, China imposed a strict lockdown to stem the spread of the coronavirus, shutting down the Lunar New Year festivities just days before they were scheduled to take place. Now, a year later, in-person celebrations in China were canceled amid recent surges in infections in parts of the country.

The Lunar New Year marks the end of the Chinese calendar and celebrated among the Chinese cultural sphere in various countries. Residents in other countries observing the Lunar New Year, including Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, are also proceeding with the festivities in caution, wearing face masks when visiting temples – which are subsequently doused with disinfectant to prevent any potential spread of the coronavirus. 

Here’s what celebrating one of the most important cultural holidays in the Chinese culture looks like amid the pandemic: 

Families host virtual gatherings to observe the holiday. Chinese officials encouraged residents not to travel after recent outbreaks.

lunar new year 2020
Liu Yuting and her family enjoy Chinese Lunar New Year dinner at a Haidilao hotpot restaurant with relatives in Jilin province connected via video link after they decided not to travel to their hometown following authorities advice after an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Beijing, China February 11, 2021.

For those who decide to go to the temple, people are subject to temperature checks prior to entry.

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A security guard checks the temperature of worshippers at the entrance of a temple amid concerns of coronavirus outbreak during the Lunar New Year of the Ox celebrations in the China Town area of Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, Feb. 12, 2021.

Worshippers wear face coverings when praying at temples for the Lunar New Year.

lunar new year 2021
A woman wearing a protective mask prays at the Thean Hou Temple during first day of Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations in Kuala Lumpur, Friday, Feb. 12, 2021.

Buddhist monks and visitors alike wear protective gear to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

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Buddhist monks wearing facemasks to protect against COVID-19 pray as they mark Lunar New Year at Seng Guan temple on February 12, 2021, in Manila, Philippines.

Temples are hosed down with disinfectant.

lunar new year 2021
Indonesian Red Cross personnel sprays disinfectant to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Hwie Ing Kiong temple, ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year in Madiun, East Java province, Indonesia, February 11, 2021.

Chinese opera troupe members wore face shields over ornate make-up for performances.

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Chinese opera troupe members wear face shields as protection from COVID-19 during a performance at Lhong 1919 on February 12, 2021 in Bangkok, Thailand.

An advertisement for a COVID-19 contact-tracing app is posted to track surges in infections in Hong Kong.

lunar new year 2021
A QR code for the “LeaveHomeSafe” Covid-19 contact-tracing app is posted during Lunar New Year fair at Victoria Park, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Hong Kong, China, February 11, 2021.

Signs are posted in New York City’s Chinatown in the US to remind people not to gather in large groups.

lunar new year 2021
People walk through Chinatown on the eve of the Lunar New Year holiday on February 11, 2021 in New York City.

While not all Lunar New Year festivities went according to plan in 2021, families (and pets alike) made the most out of it.

lunar new year 2021
Two pugs pose with a packet of Fortune Cookies in Chinatown on the first day of the Lunar New Year, which ushers in the Year of the Ox in central London on February 12, 2021.

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