With its partial autonomy, the island city of Hong Kong has traditionally served as “a gate to China” — the local trade center, backed by transparent English-style common law and an openly pro-business government strategy. Could the harbor, home to seven million inhabitants, inherit this role in relation to the crypto industry, becoming a proxy for mainland China’s experiments with crypto?
An impulse to such questioning was given by Arthur Hayes, the former CEO of crypto derivatives giant BitMEX in his Oct. 26 blog post. Hayes believes the Hong Kong government’s announcement about introducing a bill to regulate crypto to be a sign that China is trying to ease its way back into the market. The opinion was immediately replicated in a range of industrial and mainstream media.
In late October, the head of the fintech unit at the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) of Hong Kong, Elizabeth Wong, announced the liberalization of Hong Kong’s regulatory landscape by allowing retail investors to “directly invest into virtual assets.”
Up until recently, only individuals with a portfolio worth at least $1 million (which marks about 7% of the city’s population) have been granted access to centralized crypto exchanges by the SFC. The regulator has also been reviewing whether to allow retail investors to invest in crypto-related exchange-traded funds, Wong noted.
Roughly a few days after, on Oct. 21, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, Christopher Hu, shared his city’s fintech plans, among other efforts, directed at “transferring wealth to the next generation.” The key is establishing a regulatory regime for virtual asset service providers, and a certain bill was already introduced to the city’s lawmakers, as Hu specified.
Finally, on Oct. 31, during the city’s FinTech Week 2022, Hong Kong Financial Secretary Paul Chan assured attendees that the digital transformation of financial services is a key priority for his team. Chan’s colleague, the CEO of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA), Eddie Yue, promised “radical open-mindedness” regarding the innovations.
According to him, the HKMA is in the process of establishing a regulatory regime for stablecoins and has already issued guidelines to banks about cryptocurrency or decentralized finance-related services.
Crackdown on the Mainland, uncertainty on the island
Hong Kong’s intention to open up for crypto comes a year after a devastating…